They didn’t have to play a minute but the Bulls managed to pull of a feat they haven’t done since the glory days of the nineties. With a loss by the Miami Heat at the hands of the Boston Celtics tonight, the Bulls have clinched the Eastern Conference’s top seed and have secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
This is a huge accomplishment for the Bulls not only because it hasn’t been done in almost 20 years, but because it gives the Bulls the same exact path to the Eastern Conference Finals they had last year.
The landmarks may be different, the Bulls will get the Sixers or Knicks in the first round rather then the Pacers but they still may end up playing the Hawks and then he Heat in the Semi-Finals and the Conference Finals just like last year. The goal this year however, is to avoid the same outcome.
The playoff matches will be broken down ad nauseam from now until they actually begin but right now the Bulls look like shoo-ins for an Eastern Conference Finals repeat.
In round one they will get either the Knicks or the Sixers and we probably won’t find out until the last game of the season. It hardly matters though since the Bulls can easily handle both New York and Philadelphia even if they didn’t have home court advantage.
It gets interesting in round two because at that point we will know the durability of Derrick Rose. The x-factor in the playoffs for the Bulls is Rose and his health. If Rose can remain healthy and can perform at a high level then the Bulls should daily make it to the Eastern Conference Finals once again.
But if he goes down and misses games in the second round then things will get tough.
Even if Rose misses games in the opening round things could get sticky for Chicago. The Knicks and Sixers have both showed they can beat the Bulls without Rose int he lineup, however the Knicks have done so more recently. But nevertheless the Bulls will need Rose healthy throughout the playoffs if they want to avoid the outcome of their 2011 campaign.
For now, the Bulls can take it easy. This 66-game season has taken a massive toll on the Bulls and even just two games of rest before the beginning of the playoffs on Saturday will do a world of wonders. And the Bulls can afford to rest players the last two games of the season.
The Bulls are 2012 Eastern Conference Regular Season Kings.