The NBA postseason got going on Tuesday night as the first round of the play-in tournament in the Western Conference got started. The Eastern Conference now has its turn on Wednesday night, and the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks are doing battle in Atlanta. The Bulls won two of three in the regular season, but with the season on the line, they will have to bring their A-game to get a win.

If the Bulls can find a way to get past the Hawks, they will still have to win one more game to get into the playoffs. The road to get into the playoffs is going to be difficult, but Chicago is thinking about how they can be successful playing a small lineup for the whole postseason, not just on Wednesday night.

“I think the pace part is fine,” Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told the media before the play-in game. “The pace is always going to be how well we can defend. If we’re giving up offensive rebounds, fouling, and the game gets slowed, it’s going to be hard. So, when you’re small out there [on the court], like in the New York [Knicks] situation, I think we got hurt one time with [Isaiah] Hartenstein on an offensive rebound and we missed a blockout. But when we were able to get stops and get out in transition, that’s when it’s [our pace] going to be most effective. I think those guys have a good enough feel in terms of how to play, because in that small lineup, there’s really nobody that’s a post presence, so to speak. I think I’ve mentioned to you guys, maybe going into the Washington [Wizards] game when Andre [Drummond] was out and even the New York [Knicks] game, that was an opportunity for us to do some of that. And I do think the guys did a good job with it, and they’re smart enough to figure that out. But it’s [playing small] only going to be effective, in my opinion, of how well we can rebound and how well we can defend. If we’re not doing well, I think it would be really, really hard, just size-wise. I feel very, very comfortable that the pace at which they can play will be fine, and they’ll do a good job with that.”

Billy Donovan has preached defense and rebounding all season long, and it will be crucial if they are going to find postseason success.

Scenarios for the Bulls

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan reacts in the first half against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena.

© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Bulls do win on Wednesday night, they will go on to play against the Miami Heat on Friday in Miami. That game will be for a playoff spot, and the pressure will be on. The best seed that Chicago can get in the playoffs is the eight seed, and if they get there, they will take on the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been far and away the best team in the regular season all year. The Bulls have a shot to get into the playoffs, but advancing past the first round seems very unlikely.