The notion might seem far-fetched, but perhaps injuries finally can do what losing, a coach's firing and consistent booing from the home crowd has not.
Playing without the injured Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon, the Bulls at times finally resembled the scrappy bunch from recent seasons that huffed and puffed its way up the playoff mountain.
And talk about your far-fetched notions: After Wednesday's 108-95 victory over a Pacers team without Jermaine O'Neal and Troy Murphy, the Bulls, who were led by Kirk Hinrich's career-high 38 points, sit just one game out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Hinrich knew he was under the gun.
"I felt it put on my shoulders that I had to make plays without BG and Lu," he said. "Those guys attack on offense. I'm confident I can make plays. … I tried to set the tone."
Interim coach Jim Boylan said the Bulls will just have to overcome the injuries.
"Injuries happen," he said. "You just have to deal with it. Other teams go through the same stretches. You hope guys take the opportunity. If you're on the bench and you want to play more, this is your chance."
The chance will be an extended one since Deng will be sidelined a minimum one to three weeks because of left Achilles' tendinitis.
Gordon sat with a sprained right wrist he suffered on Monday night in Memphis, though he practiced Tuesday. Boylan said X-rays were negative. And Duhon continues to sit with a bruised left knee.
Those absences represent 42.9 points and a whole lot of extra playing time, which Andres Nocioni—who moved back into the lineup for Deng and scored 24 points—Thabo Sefolosha, Joakim Noah and Adrian Griffin happily consumed.
Sefolosha again started for Duhon and finished with 14 points and three steals.
Griffin shot 2 of 8 but contributed his typical heady plays and always-around-the-ball defense. His second-quarter steal led directly to a Hinrich three-pointer that capped a 17-0 Bulls run.
Noah made his first four shots and played more than either Ben Wallace or Joe Smith. He finished with 14 points and a season-high 15 rebounds and jazzed the sellout crowd of 21,774 when he laid in a behind-the-back pass from Hinrich with 6 minutes 5 seconds left to push the lead to 10.
"Coach has confidence in me right now and is letting me play in the fourth quarter at crucial times," Noah said. "That's something I want to do but at the same time I have to keep proving myself at all times."
Boylan liked what he saw from everyone.
"We played with energy and enthusiasm," he said. "If we're willing to do that every night, then we'll have chances. Everything isn't fixed."
The Pacers pulled to within two, five and six points on one occasion each in the fourth, but this time, the Bulls had answers. Most of them involved Hinrich, who didn't always settle for jumpers and added 10 assists and seven rebounds.
"He was unbelievable," Boylan said. "He controlled the tempo, made big shots and stepped up when obviously we were undermanned."
Unfortunately, Deng is becoming all too familiar with injury.
A sprained right ankle cost him 10 games during his rookie season, which then ended after 61 games because of surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right wrist. Deng also missed the Bulls' first-round playoff loss to the Wizards.
After playing all 82 games last season and missing just four the previous one, Deng sat for three games on the extended November trip because of a sore back. The forward again stated his belief the back injury precipitated the sore Achilles'.
"I was trying to play a certain way," Deng said. "I started to feel it in New York [on Dec. 30] and kept trying to play through it. It showed improvement the last couple of weeks. I would rest between games but we kept playing so many.
"The last game it felt good going in and then during the game it didn't feel well. It's smart to really give it some time to heal instead of playing through this all year. It's something with rest that should go away. It's nothing big where I need surgery or anything major. The few days I had off it showed improvement so that's why I'm kind of positive about it."
The Bulls made positives out of negatives all night long.Copyright © 2015, CT Now