CHICAGO — When the United Center doors opened at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, you would've thought it was a playoff game the way fans hustled through security checks.
No such luck.
The Bulls finished at 27-55 after a 119-87 loss to Detroit — their worst record since 2003-04 when they were 23-59.
Yet, for the ninth straight year, they lead the NBA in home attendance, averaging 20,762 fans to the Cavaliers' 20,562.
Among the turnout Wednesday were Crown Point's Jeff Robinson, his son, Ben, and friends Quinn Rosenthal and Ryan DeVries.
Had Jeff not landed the tickets at a silent auction, they all would've stayed home.
"They pestered me to bid on the tickets and we won," said Jeff, who dished out $360. "Look at these guys. They all play basketball. They're on the same team. They've never been to a Bulls game."
Being in a total rebuild season with fans wanting them to tank for a higher draft pick, the Bulls gave serious effort most games and that's what Coach Fred Hoiberg demanded, despite the outcome.
There are still holes to fill for 2018-19, big holes.
"They need these guys to graduate, grow a couple of feet and join the team," Jeff laughed, pointing to his teenage companions.
Their anxiety was obvious as concessions opened.
"It's just cool what some people can do with the dunks and how accurate they are shooting," Ben Robinson said. "I don't watch the Bulls a lot (on TV). I was disappointed when they got rid of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose because they were two of my favorite players."
The Bulls owned the NBA's seventh-worst record prior to tipoff and have two first-round picks, but will know more by the May 15 lottery.
"I'm pretty excited because this is my first Bulls game and the first professional basketball game I've been to," Rosenthal added. "I don't normally watch basketball but I root for them because they're local.
"I want them to win (tonight) and make a lot of 3's."
Will he follow the Bulls if there are big changes?
"Maybe. I'll try," Rosenthal said.
Most players on the roster are under contract for next season, many at a reasonable price, so don't expect the Bulls to be big shoppers in free-agency this summer.
Their top priorities will be re-signing restricted free agents Zach LaVine and David Nwaba.
Hoiberg is quick to note franchise players Lauri Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn only had six games together due to various health issues.
The Bulls were 3-3 in those games.
DeVries hadn't been to a Bulls game since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season when they went 50-16 and won their division with Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Luol Deng.
"I had asked my mom at the silent auction if she could bid on the tickets, then we got outbid and she wouldn't bid anymore," DeVries said. "Then (Jeff) did and things all came together.
"Now we're here. Happy time. Happy time."
So, are Bulls-Pistons his highlight of the year?
"Probably, unless the Pacers upset the whole Eastern Conference and I get to go to a magical Finals game that ends up in Indiana," DeVries said.
But wait. The kid doesn't pull for the Bulls or Pacers, if you can believe that.
"I'm more of a Houston fan," DeVries said.