CHICAGO — It was supposed to be a close race. Then again nothing so far for the Bulls this season has gone according to plan. And for once, that means something positive.
The Bulls made it 32 straight home wins this season by knocking off the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night in Chicago. That’s newsworthy in of itself as the Bulls now own the Eastern Conference’s best home record by 4 games over Boston. Something else they hold over Boston, is a two game lead in the East.
Chicago is now sole owner of the number one slot in the Eastern Conference and with only 11 games left in the season, the Bulls can start counting down their magic number. It really has been a storybook year for the Bulls; they own one of the league’s best records, they have a bonified NBA superstar and are geared up for a deep run in the playoffs that most likely will see the road to the finals run through the United Center.
Remind you of another time in Bulls history?
Even their superstar savior is a Chicago native who grew up watching the legendary Michael Jordan do his thing with the Bulls. Now it’s Derrick Rose’s turn to show Chicago what he’s got to offer and the deal is a pretty sweet one.
With the Bulls currently on a three game tear, an the Celtics of Boston in a downward spiral, the Bulls can now do something they haven’t done in over a decade: count down their magic number to clinch the Eastern Conference and secure home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
That magic number, as it stands now, is 9.
If the Bulls win their next 5 and the Celtics for some reason drop their next five, the Bulls will have a 7 game lead with 6 games left thus clinching the East. The Bulls can win out and clinch. Every Bulls win or Celtics loss lowers that magic number; the Bulls are officially in control of their own destiny.
“We’re just trying to win every game. Even if it’s by one or two points, we’ll take it.” said Rose. The Bulls pulled off a narrow victory at home against the Grizzlies to pad an extra game between them an Boston. The two teams match-up against each other April 7th in what is becoming an even more crucial game as the season winds down.
Chicago plays just 4 of their remaining 11 games against teams with a .500 or above record which are Philadelphia, Phoenix, Boston and Orlando. Three of those four, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Boston, are at home in the United Center. The Celtics have five of their remaining 11 against above .500 teams including showdowns in San Antonio, Miami and of course Chicago. Plus Boston, who a week ago was staring down Chicago, has to start watching its back before it gets leap frogged again, this time by Miami for second place in the East.
If the Bulls can maintain the sort of play they have going at the moment, the Eastern Conference belongs to the Bulls and the road to the Finals will go through the Madhouse. Chicago will also have the luxury of laying either Miami or Boston, not both granted those teams make it that far.
Of the playoffs started today, Chicago would get the very sweepable Pacers in the first round and then either Orlando or Atlanta in the next round; both of whom are very beatable for Chicago with only Orlando winning in the United Center back in December. This would set up a showdown with, most likely, either the Heat or Celtics. The Heat are obviously a beatable team for Chicago and if they get Boston, the Bulls may pull that one out given the Celtics age combined with what will most likely be back-to-back seven game series.
Bulls fans haven’t had this confident of a track to the Finals in years and boy does it feel great to finally be back to that feeling again.