DEERFIELD, Ill.With two regular-season games remaining Wednesdays road matchup at division rival Indiana and the season finale Thursday against Cleveland the Bulls control their own destiny.
A win in either of the aforementioned contests or a loss by the Heat, in either Tuesday nights showdown at Atlantic Division winner Boston or Thursdays matchup at lowly Washington, which beat Miami at home last week, would clinch the Easts top seed for the Bulls. If the Bulls were to drop their final two games and Miami won out, the Heat would own the tiebreaker between the two teams, as that scenario would give Miami the better record against Eastern Conference teams, as the first tie-breaking criteria, the teams head-to-head matchups, wouldnt factor in, as the season series is tied at two apiece after the Heats win last Thursday.
If that isnt complicated enough, the race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs is still up for grabs outside of Miami. The Bulls currently have the same record as San Antonio, which also has two regular-season games left to play, and own the tiebreaker by virtue of beating the Spurs earlier in the season. However, while the Bulls have no room for error, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus main competition for NBA Coach of the Year honors is notorious for resting his star players down the stretch of the season and with a Phoenix team still fighting for the playoff lives on San Antonios slate Wednesday, the Bulls could have an advantage.
Then, theres the other spectrum of postseason battles: Philadelphia and New York fighting for or against the Easts seventh seed. Assuming the Heat, who have rested players down the stretch, but face a Celtics team prone to the same practices, end up with the second seed, the common perception is that the 76ers and Knicks would prefer to fall to eighth and face the Bulls, an assertion backed up by comments of various players on both teams as of late.
New York, still trying to develop chemistry between star forwards Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, have a Wednesday home game against a Clippers team still jockeying for playoff position in the West before their finale on the road against historically-awful Charlotte, while the Sixers, in the midst of five consecutive road games to end the season, have their own back-to-back against Milwaukee, which was eliminated Monday night, and Detroit.
Both teams have given the Bulls trouble over the course of the season, but with Anthonys recent scoring tear and the Knicks improved defense under interim head coach Mike Woodson, whether the Bulls admit it or not, theyd probably prefer to face Philadelphia, which features much less offensive firepower and limped into clinching a playoff berth Tuesday night after appearing to be running away with the Atlantic Division earlier in the season.