Don't worry, Stan. It's almost over. No matter how "it" may be defined. (Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE)
The Bulls' magic number is one.
They just need to win one of their two remaining games to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference, no matter what the Heat do in the final two games. The Bulls would also clinch with a Heat loss.
The 76ers win on Monday over the Nets clinched the eight playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, eliminating the Bucks from contention. With the Magic and Knicks holding the tiebreakers over Philly, it's likely that the Sixers with have the #8 seed in the postseason.
All three teams at the bottom of the East playoff teams are within two games of each other with two games remaining. The current East playoff standings, going into Tuesday, are as follows:
- Bulls (48-16) -- top two-seed clinched
- Heat (46-18) -- top two-seed clinched; Miami owns tiebreaker over Chicago
- Pacers (42-23) -- seed clinched
- Celtics (37-27) -- seed clinched, as Atlantic Division winner
- Hawks (38-26) -- seed clinched, owning tiebreaker over Orlando
- Magic (34-28) -- owns tiebreaker over Philly, cannot be the eight-seed
- Knicks (32-30) -- bottom three-seed clinched; owns tiebreakers against Orlando and Philly
- 76ers (32-30) -- bottom two-seed clinched
The only scenario in which the Bulls lose the top seed is where: (a) the Bulls lose both of their remaining games; and (b) the Heat win both of their remaining games.
The only scenario in which the Sixers don't end up the eight-seed is where: (a) Philly splits their final two games and New York loses both games; or (b) Philly wins both games and New York only wins one. Seeing as the Sixers only have the Bucks and Pistons left on the schedule, while the Knicks have the Clippers and Bobcats, makes the possibility a bit more feasible; but Philly's final two games are on the road, as have their last three, making it the tail-end of a road trip. And the Knicks have their tough game -- against the Clippers -- in New York, at least.
The only scenario where the Bulls get the Magic in the first round is where: (a) Chicago loses the top seed to Miami; (b) New York wins both remaining games; and (c) Orlando loses both remaining games.
The standings are so heavily likely to remain as currently stand, so our first round matchup, when the playoffs begin on Saturday will look pretty good for the home teams. The Magic are toast without Dwight Howard -- whose season is done with back surgery -- and the Hawks will be without Al Horford, as they have since mid-January. Add in that Philly has lost 21 of their last 35 and the Knicks are the only team posing any threat at all.
New York took a while to come along, but are 16-6 since firing Mike D'Antoni under the helm of Mike Woodson. They're 5th in defensive efficiency on the season and improving as the season closes. They can beat the Pacers, but still not the Heat in the a seven-game series. That said, the Heat-Knicks series should be a hell of a ride.
The other three just may range from comical to poopy, though.
EDIT: Thanks to Tim S., who posted in the comments section: "76ers plan to rest 'Iguodala and Elton Brand, and ‘probably’ Lou Williams for the final two regular-season games.' So it seems likely they will remain in the 8 seed. Pacers rested Hibbert, Granger, and Hill against Detroit, and will at least rest Granger against the Bulls."