Eastern Conference Standings: Bulls magic number jumps to three with loss to Heat

"Y-y-y-y-y-y-yo! PAUSE! PAUSE! PAUSE!" (Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)

The Heat are 45-17 to the Bulls' conference-leading 47-16. Do the math and, with three games remaining, that puts the Bulls' magic number back down to three, as Miami owns the tiebreaker.

The Bulls host the Mavericks on Saturday and wrap up the season with a mid-week back-to-back against the Pacers in Indianapolis and against the Cavaliers at the United Center. Miami gets the Wizards and Rockets at home in a Saturday-Sunday back-to-back; then, close out the season in Boston to face the Celtics on Tuesday and Wizards in D.C. on Thursday.

The standing are as follows through Thursday, April 19 (via Basketball-Reference.com)

Eastern Conference W L W-L% GB PS/G PA/G SRS
Chicago Bulls* (1) 47 16 .746 96.3 88.5 7.09
Miami Heat* (2) 45 17 .726 99.7 92.7 6.86
Indiana Pacers* (3) 41 22 .651 6.0 97.7 94.2 2.72
Boston Celtics* (4) 37 26 .587 92.1 89.8 1.94
Atlanta Hawks* (5) 37 25 .597 8.0 96.0 92.8 2.29
Orlando Magic* (6) 36 26 .581 9.0 94.5 92.9 1.26
New York Knicks* (7) 33 29 .532 3.5 97.6 94.5 2.48
Philadelphia 76ers (8) 32 30 .516 4.5 93.4 88.9 3.89
Milwaukee Bucks (9) 29 33 .468 17.5 99.6 99.3 -0.18

As for potential first round opponents for the Bulls, the currently-seventh-seeded Knicks have clinched a playoff spot.

The eighth-seeded 76ers are only three games ahead of the ninth-seeded Bucks for the final playoff spot. With only four games remaining for both teams, Philly needs to close out their drastic slump with a monumental failure to miss the playoffs. They do close the season on a five-game road trip, so anything's possible. The two face off in Milwaukee on the second-to-last day of the season, which could be about as meaningful as it gets for the two.

And the sixth-seeded Magic would have to lose out to fall to the eight-seed. With Dwight Howard done for the season due to back surgery, this isn't as far out of the realm of possibility as it may seem. Looking at their schedule, they could very well lose two or three of their remaining games, though, so falling to #7 is very possible with NY getting up to #6

Mathematically, potential first round opponents for the Bulls are isolated to -- in order of probability -- Philly, New York, Orlando, and Milwaukee.

Bear in mind, looking at the remaining games that Indy's magic number to lock up the #3 is one. One more win for them or one more loss for the Hawks and they clinch homecourt for the first round. Also, remember that the Celtics have clinched their division and are out of Indy's reach, so they're literally locked in the #4 spot.

Remaining schedules:

Bulls: April 21 vs. Dallas, April 25 at Indiana, and April 26 vs. Cleveland

Heat: April 21 vs. Washington, April 22 vs. Houston, April 24 at Boston, and April 26 at Washington

Sixers: April 21 at Indiana, April 23 at Nets, April 25 at Milwaukee, and April 26 at Detroit

Knicks: April 20 at Cleveland, April 22 at Atlanta, April 25 vs. Clippers, and April 26 at Bobcats

Magic: April 21 at Jazz, April 22 at Denver, April 25 vs. Charlotte, and April 26 at Memphis

Bucks: April 21 vs. New Jersey, April 23 vs. Raptors, April 25 vs. Philly, and April 26 at Boston

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