Mar 24, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng (top) is congratulated by small forward Kyle Korver (bottom) for scoring the game winning basket at the buzzer during overtime against the Toronto Raptors at the United Center. The Bulls beat the Raptors 102-101 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

Bulls Clinch: Have First In, Last Out Playoff Mentality

It wasn’t an easy game to watch on Saturday night. But even if it was an ugly win — probably the ugliest the Bulls have had all season — the reward was well worth it: Chicago became the first team to clinch a playoff spot.

The script is shaping up the same way from last year with hopefully a different ending for the Bulls. (Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE)

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Chicago would be playoff bound, but now it’s official.

But the battle isn’t over and the grind is just beginning. Although they’re in, Chicago wants to remain top dog and their sights are now set on clinching the top seed and home court advantage throughout the playoffs for a second straight year.

The only team that poses a real threat at the moment is the Miami Heat who sit three games behind Chicago with 16 games left for the Bulls and 20 left for the Heat.

At the moment, Chicago would host the Knicks if the playoffs ended today and the Heat would get the Celtics in the first round. The Orlando Magic sit 8.5 games behind the Bulls and barring a gigantic meltdown by both Miami and Chicago, will remain in the third seed watching their backs for the Sixers who sit in the fourth seed.

 

TEAM

RECORD

GB

GAMES LEFT

 x- Bulls

40-11

15

Heat

35-11

3

20

 Magic

31-18

8.5

17

Sixers

27-21

12

18

Pacers

28-19

10.5

19

Hawks

29-20

10.5

17

Celtics

25-22

13.5

19

Knicks

24-25

 15.5

17

Nothing is set in stone (well other then the Bulls being in) but the playoff picture is starting to shape up as we enter the final month of the season.

Many things can change and the race is going to be interesting to watch unfold. Miami isn’t happy about watching the Bulls clinch before them when they feel they’re the better team. Orlando has come out of nowhere to replace the Celtics as the third head in the East, but are not only overshadowed by the Heat and Bulls as well as the Dwight Howard mess, but are largely being dismissed as a serious contender.

The Sixers were once not he heels of the Bulls and want nothing more then to be the third head in the East they feel they can be. Near the bottom there is a serious three team race for the fifth with Indiana and Atlanta currently tied and Boston sitting three games behind them.

Milwaukee is currently on the outside looking in but sit only a game and a half behind the Knicks and as bad as Cleveland has been, they sit exactly five games out of the playoffs.

But for the Bulls, none of that really matters. Their concern is flipping the script from last year which is at the moment exactly the same story.

Here we sit, in late March with the Bulls pulling away with the top seed, best record in the NBA and the best home record in the NBA. What matters now is making the proper moves and playing a level of basketball that finishes the story that was started last year and to ensure that the story doesn’t end in a similar fashion.

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