Bulls control own destiny in regular season's final week

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Bulls control own destiny in regular season's final week

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.

Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

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Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

ATLANTA (AP) — Dustin Johnson had a reasonable lie in the rough and only a few pine tree branches blocking his path to the 17th green. Neither seemed like a problem until he played the wrong shot, clipped the tree and wound up with a double bogey Saturday in the Tour Championship.

It was an example of how one hole can change everything at East Lake.

And it's why the final round of the PGA Tour season suddenly has more scenarios than Johnson cares to consider.

Johnson recovered with a birdie from the bunker on the par-5 18th for a 1-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell (68) going into the last round that will determine who wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

For the first time since 2009, there's a chance it might not be the same player.

"There's a lot of scenarios that could happen," Johnson said. "But yeah, I'm still going to go out and try to shoot as low a score as possible."

Johnson only has to win or finish second alone to claim the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.

Rory McIlroy, who has gone 28 holes without a bogey at East Lake, had three birdies over his last six holes for a 66 and was two shots behind. If he were to win the Tour Championship and Johnson finished in a two-way tie for second or worse, McIlroy would claim the FedEx Cup.

"It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it," McIlroy said.

The winner of the Tour Championship has won the FedEx Cup every year since 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup.

Johnson led by as many as four shots when he ran off three straight birdies on the front nine, and he really didn't do much wrong to give up the size of that lead. He had a three-putt from 70 feet on No. 13, and missed the fairway by a few feet on the next hole, enough that his ball was buried so deep that even Johnson and his power couldn't advance more than about 135 yards.

It was the 17th hole that reshaped the tournament.

Johnson tried to played a fade from a flyer lie in the rough, and the ball came out high and hit a branch, leaving him in more rough about 60 yards short of the green. He put that in the bunker, blasted out to 6 feet and missed the putt to make double bogey.

Chappell rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot swing on the hole and suddenly had the lead, only for Johnson to catch him with the final birdie.

They were at 8-under 202.

Chappell, a runner-up three times this season who has never won on the PGA Tour, has made only one bogey in 54 holes this week, a show of consistency, discipline and a few good breaks when he does miss the fairway.

His next chance at a breakthrough victory is to face golf's best player at the moment (Johnson), with McIlroy and Ryan Moore (66) two shots behind.

"I've always kind of been the underdog, so it's a role I'm comfortable in," Chappell said.

Moore went out in 31 until he was slowed by a pair of bogeys, though very much in the mix just two shots out of the lead. The mystery is whether anything he does on Sunday - even if that means a victory - is enough for Davis Love III to use his last captain's pick on Moore for the Ryder Cup.

"I came here this week to win a golf tournament, and I'm 100 percent focused on that," Moore said, adding that the Ryder Cup is "completely out of my control."

And that's how the last day is shaping up for everyone - post a score and see where it leads.

Johnson, for a moment, looked as though he might take all the drama out of the season-ender when he made a 15-foot par putt early in his round and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine to go four shots clear.

The putter cooled off, however, and Chappell stayed in range.

Chappell chipped in on No. 12 to match birdies and stay three shots behind, and then he quickly closed the gap when Johnson made back-to-back bogeys, only to respond with a 4-iron over the water to a peninsula green on the par-3 15th to 15 feet for birdie.

The 17th hole changed everything.

"I thought about just trying to hit it in the front bunker, which I probably should have done - probably would have made 4 if I'd have done that," Johnson said. "But it is what it is. I came back and birdied the last hole, tied for the lead going into tomorrow. I like my position."

And he doesn't need a degree in math to figure out the easiest scenario - just win.

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