Sizing up Bulls' schedule as Eastern Conference race heats up

Sizing up Bulls' schedule as Eastern Conference race heats up
March 6, 2014, 9:15 am
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The Bulls are now entering a six-game home stand, beginning with Friday night’s game against Memphis at the United Center. While being back in Chicago for more than a week is a plus, the teams who will be visiting won’t make it easy.

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After facing the Grizzlies, who are battling for eighth place in the Western Conference, the Bulls will host defending champion Miami in a Sunday-afternoon matinee affair. That will be followed by contests against formidable foes San Antonio and Houston, and although Sacramento coming to town is a bit of a respite — it should be noted that like last season, the Bulls were thrashed by the Kings on the road — another upper-echelon club, Oklahoma City, will close out the stretch.

Keeping an eye on the competition

If the Bulls can survive the home stand without taking on too many losses, their battle for third place in the Eastern Conference gets a bit easier — judging just by the quality of opponent, since, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is fond of chiding the media, there are no easy games in the NBA — with a pair of games against Indiana and a home matchup against Portland in March, and road games in Washington and Minnesota their only contests against teams currently with winning records for the rest of the season.

The team that’s currently third in the East, Toronto, has a comparatively lighter road in its final 24 games. The Raptors play only six opponents over .500, with a critical stretch of three games beginning March 31 — at Miami, then back to Canada to host Houston and Indiana, the latter being the first team in either conference to clinch a playoff bid — something to keep an eye on.

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Meanwhile, Washington, the East’s fifth-place club, has seven games against current teams with winning records the rest of the way and surging Brooklyn, in sixth place, has eight of the same.

Korver’s streak comes to an end

Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver’s NBA record for consecutive games with a made three-pointer came to an end Wednesday night. The ex-Bull had made a three in 127 games in a row heading into Atlanta’s matchup at Portland, but failed to knock one down in a 102-78 loss.

Korver, one of the nicest, most genuine guys in the league, is probably disappointed about the streak ending, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was also somewhat relieved. Shortly after breaking the record, he visited Chicago and after losing to the Bulls, Korver conveyed that not only does he not care for all of the individual attention, but it was probably affecting his shooting in general.

The Hawks, one of the NBA’s first-half surprises, have struggled as a whole as of late, going from third place in the East to now clinging to the eighth spot.