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Could Celts be Trying to Avoid Bulls in Playoffs?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Mar 25
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I saw the end of the Boston/Orlando game Wednesday night, and this is my conclusion. The Celtics lost in the hopes of falling to third and trying to avoid the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.
Sorry, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it for now.
Here come the Bulls?
OK, maybe it’s a bit of specious reasoning. But the Bulls potential playoff position solidified nicely Wednesday with losses by the Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks and New Jersey Nets.
The Bulls remain in eighth, a game behind the sinking Detroit Pistons. But they got some appreciated breathing room for that spot as the Bobcats lost to the Washington Wizards, the weakest team on their closing schedule which still includes games against the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Heat, 76ers and Bulls, the latter April 11 in Chicago.
Charlotte is now 2.5 games behind the Bulls with the Nets three back, the Bucks 3.5 games back, the Pacers four back and the Knicks and Raptors probably out of contention.
Though in some respects this may not be great for the Bulls. Because it puts the Bulls in position now that not making the playoffs would be considered something of a collapse given the chaotic play of the teams below them.
Particularly in that Wizards/Bobcats game. Charlotte has the tiebreaker over the Bulls and had been playing the best of the contenders for that last spot. They seemed the Bulls’ biggest threat to making the playoffs, and still could be.
Charlotte Wednesday took a 20-point lead over Washington in the first half, and then almost stole the game back after trailing by six with less than 50 seconds left.
It’s the perverse joy in watching bad teams try to play under pressure.
Which is why you never say never about sub-.500 teams. There is a reason they are below .500. You never assume anything with teams like that. They remain capable of losing to anyone. Because losing teams usually play with no pressure because no one expects anything of them. But when someone does…
So the Wizards commit five turnovers in the last two minutes. They blow consecutive inbounds plays with 40 seconds to go to give Charlotte the ball each time. And then Washington is leading by three with under 10 seconds left. So they foul Gerald Wallace on a drive to the basket for a score and free throw. Amazing. Amazingly stupid. See, plenty of teams do dumb stuff. Wallace misses the free throw, and Emeke Okafor and Boris Diaw, shockingly, then miss point blank layups on either side of the basket for the potential winning score with about two seconds left before Antawn Jamison grabs the ball and is fouled.
It would have been a stunning, potentially momentum changing win for the Bobcats. But it becomes a devastating loss that they’ll long remember if they miss the playoffs.
For the Bulls, it may have been one of the best nights of the season while they didn’t play. Plus, Miami comes into the United Center Thursday for the national TNT cable game on the second of a back to back after losing in Indiana Wednesday.
Things seem to be breaking the Bulls way as they avoided their own meltdown and won in Washington Monday despite themselves.
Ten games to go. It looks now like a 4-6 or 5-5 finish will almost certainly get the Bulls into the playoffs. Hey, Michael Jordan didn’t apologize when he made the playoffs his first three seasons in the NBA with sub-.500 records. In fact, in Jordan’s rookie season when he was rookie of the year, the Bulls went to the playoffs as the seventh seed with a 38-44 record. That’s about the Bulls’ current pace. And Derrick Rose, uncertain for Miami Thursday with a sore wrist, is the leading contender to be rookie of the year.
The Bulls lost 3-1 in Jordan’s rookie season playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks.
With Orlando’s win over Boston, the teams are tied in head to head and within percentage points for second in the East. So that placement is uncertain. If it’s a tie, Boston now has the tiebreaker edge with a better conference record. That would mean second against seventh. With both five games behind Cleveland, the eighth place team almost certainly will play the Cavs. The seventh place team will face the team that finishes ahead, Boston or Orlando. It seems unlikely anyone can move ahead of Miami or Philadelphia, which both have winning records at fifth and sixth in the East.
Be still my beating heart. Now, this is excitement.