Suddenly Bulls have two more must wins for playoffs


Apr 12

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Well, you knew in watching this Bulls season it wasn’t going to be easy or simple, and the playoffs now come down to this with the Pistons laying down Monday and losing badly to the Toronto Raptors 111-97:

The Bulls probably need to sweep their last two, Tuesday at home over Boston and Wednesday in Charlotte.

That’s because the Raptors close the season at home Wednesday against the Knicks, and who knows how motivated the Knicks will be to get to that magical 30th win.

And, really, it’s probably fitting that the Bulls cannot—and should not be allowed to—back in. After all, winning two gets them to 41-41, which is really what you should at least be as a playoff team.

You could have imagined the Raptors had packed it in for the season after being blown out, booed and humiliated by the Bulls Sunday. But we forget the Pistons have Ben Wallace, who basically allowed a layup line of Raptors to drive and dunk. The Raptors—those quitting Raptors of Sunday—shot 60 percent. Det-roit basket-ball! What a laugh.

I heard Ben called Adrian Griffin to find out if he should suspend himself. I assume Joakim Noah agreed. Ben Gordon led the Pistons with 24 points, but had just six in the second and third quarters combined when the Raptors blew open the game.

So the Bulls have to beat the Celtics, who are playing for something.

The Celtics to move up to third must win their final two games and see the Hawks lose their final game in Atlanta Wednesday, which is possible with LeBron and Shaq considering playing in the finale.

The Celtics currently are in fourth, one and one/half games behind third place Atlanta. But Boston has the tiebreaker despite losing the season series to the Hawks because Boston won its division. If Boston ties Atlanta, Boston moves to third.

That’s big for Boston for two reasons.

The first is it likely means a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks instead of the Miami Heat. The Celtics are 2-1 over Milwaukee and 3-0 over Miami. But Miami is one of the league’s hottest teams, winning 17 of 21 since the beginning of March. And while the Bucks were hot, they’ve cooled down with the season ending injury to star center Andrew Bogut and were blown out at home Saturday by Boston.

Plus, getting to third for Boston would mean if the Celtics should advance avoiding the top ranked Cavaliers until the conference finals, and the Celtics, though inconsistent, have played well against Cleveland.

Atlanta winning in Cleveland Wednesday would clinch third. But the Celtics figure to want to put the pressure on them and give themselves a chance. The Celtics were physical and beat up the Bucks Saturday in a wild game marred by ejections and hard fouls, and the Bulls better expect much of the same Tuesday.

That figures to be the key game since the Bulls play the Bobcats Wednesday, and the Bobcats playoff situation has been determined. Though never count out a Larry Brown team.

The Cavs will face the Bulls or Raptors in the 1-8 matchup.

The Bobcats are locked into No. 7 and will face second seeded Orlando in the Bobcats first ever playoff appearance. Do they want to keep sharp? Will they rest guys? Will Michael Jordan want to see his former team taken out by his current team?

And you know the way Brown thinks of the game—and the way he already wondered aloud of LeBron not playing—he isn’t going to give up if the game means playoff ramifications to someone. In fact, Brown already told reporters before playing the Nets Monday, “The Chicago game is going to be different if that game means something to Chicago and Toronto. I think for the integrity of the league, we’ve got to have all our players available. I know New Jersey is not going to be in the playoffs, so I don’t feel as bad not playing everybody.”

Their so called destiny is in their hands now for the Bulls because if they go 2-0 there’s nothing the Raptors can do. But if the Bulls were to lose Tuesday, they’d have to win Wednesday in Charlotte and hope the Knicks can beat the Raptors in Toronto in a game going on at the same time.

And would the Knicks lay down as they’ll be in competition for free agents with the Bulls this summer and maybe figure the Bulls missing the playoffs hurts the Bulls?

So 24 hours later, if you were the Raptors you’d actually be feeling, surprisingly, pretty good about your chances again.

I hope the Bulls didn’t celebrate too much. There’s no reason to yet.

The Heat close its season at home Wednesday against the Nets, so it looks like they have the No. 5 spot wrapped up. The Bucks own the tiebreaker over Miami. But it would take a Heat loss at home to the Nets and Bucks win in Boston Wednesday to get the Bucks to fifth.

Thus the battle with Atlanta and Boston now is likely to get to third to avoid Miami and then likely Cleveland in the second round.

The Hawks, meanwhile, are 0-3 against Miami and 2-1 against Milwaukee, including a win in Milwaukee Monday. So you also assume the Hawks will be playing hard to get that win in Cleveland Wednesday and rooting for the Bulls Tuesday.

So then if you are the Bulls you begin to look back and know, basically, you just needed one more win. Of course, everyone in the NBA does that and can find oh so many that turned on one bounce.

But how about 1-2 to the Nets?

How about losing a 35-point second half lead at home to the Kings?

How about that Brad Miller three I still thought was good that was called no good and the Bulls lost to the Nuggets at home?

How about losing in Washington after everyone was either suspended or traded and you weren’t even sure who was playing? Same in Golden State rested to start a road trip against a roster of D-leaguers and six healthy players?

How about with a 17-point lead at home to the Grizzlies?

Or at home to the Bucks right after Andrew Bogut went out for the season?

Yes, the Bulls probably needed just one of those and this wouldn’t be so uncertain.

But I guess if you want to be considered a playoff team you ought to win your way in. It’s probably appropriate.

It just takes two.

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