Darron Cummings/Associated Press
The Bulls were the only team who could jump into the top 10 of the Eastern Conference to knock the Pacers out of play-in contention.
The 29-40 Bulls can’t catch the 33-36 Pacers now, though, as each team has just three regular-season games remaining.
Indiana is currently tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference standings. The top six in the East are guaranteed postseason berths, but the Pacers will have to play their way into the final eight-team playoff field.
Their best-case scenario is a 36-36 record, so they have no way to catch the 38-31 Miami Heat, who sit in sixth.
Indiana’s best bet is finding its way into the Seven-Eight game, with the winner of that matchup guaranteed the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. Right now, the No. 7 Boston Celtics (35-34) sit ahead of the Pacers and Hornets, who have the same record.
If the Pacers can’t finish top eight, they’ll have to win the Nine-Ten game and then defeat the loser of the Seven-Eight contest to reach the playoffs.
Indiana is aiming to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season and 10th time in 11 years.