With but two days left in the NBA regular season, the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference is pretty well set. All but two teams are locked into their positions. Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how you look at it — the Chicago Bulls happen to be one of those two teams.
As things stand at this moment — 11 a.m. CST — the Bulls would fall sixth in the East and face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. The Miami Heat are first, followed by the New York Knicks, the Pacers, the Brooklyn Nets, the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls, the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. Chicago is but a half-game behind Atlanta for the fifth seed as the Hawks take on the Toronto Raptors tonight. The Bulls need a win and at least one Atlanta loss — or two Atlanta losses — to claim the five spot, as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Bulls get the Washington Wizards at home tomorrow night in their season finale. In theory, that should be a win, but they’ve already lost to Washington twice this year, so god only knows what will happen. Chicago does catch a break, however, as the Hawks take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in their finale. Of course, it remains to be seen if the Knicks will actually compete, as they have nothing left to play for, but still.
Sneaking into the five spot gives Chicago a first-round date with Brooklyn. The Bulls are 3-1 against the Nets, with the lone loss coming on the road and going down to the wire, even as the Bulls were missing Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. There’s certainly no guarantee the Bulls would win, but Brooklyn is a much cushier matchup for them than the Pacers.
Chicago is 1-3 against Indiana, with their only win coming at home while the Pacers were without David West. Granted, the Bulls were missing Noah for that game and both losses in Indianapolis were without key members of their frontcourt — Noah in the first, Taj Gibson in the second — but the fact remains that the Pacers are a terrible matchup for the Bulls, with or without Derrick Rose. And while moving up to the five seed means a second-round faceoff with Miami, it’s not like they wouldn’t have to deal with that eventually. And the Bulls have beaten Miami twice this year, so you never know. Stranger things have happened.
Long story short: Hope for a Bulls win and two Atlanta losses today and tomorrow. There you are.