Well, this is it. The Bulls and Raptors currently tied, with the Raps owning the tiebreaker regardless of today's result. The Bulls next two games against a still-competing Celtics and aformidable home team in Charlotte. The Raptors are against the lottery-bound Knicks and Pistons. Whoever wins today's game is likely going to get this final playoff spot that neither team seems to want.
Even after the loss to New Jersey, I'm still confident the Bulls can pull this out, merely because it's possible Toronto doesn't win another game. They're winless with Chris Bosh out of the lineup so far.
And speaking of Bosh, I had an email exchange with SBNation bro-site RaptorsHQ, and naturally the discussion went towards the viability of Bosh becoming an FA. Here's what they had to say:
It's hard to say which way Bosh is leaning. Before the All-Star break, when the team was riding high, all signs seemed to point to him remaining a Raptor. Of course Toronto's epic collapse since that time, coupled with Bosh's demeanor and play, would now seem to indicate otherwise.
I personally think he'll be leaving, $30M extra (that the Raps can pay him as opposed to other clubs) or not. The bottom line is that Bryan Colangelo overpaid for a lot of mediocre talent, and now will have a VERY tough time moving any of it out of town to get Bosh real help. I think Bosh knows this and is pretty sick of carrying this team alone.
And like KG's Minnesota days, it's getting harder and harder to blame him for feeling this way, even if he hasn't come out and said it in so many words.
So to me, a first-round annihalation at the hands of the Cavs isn't going to change his mind as opposed to missing the playoffs.
That being said, a playoff miss will certainly close the door very quickly.
Lets close it, shall we?
I'm not sure I even want to bother trying to scope this matchup out on paper, as who knows how the Bulls will show up. They're healthy and seemingly playing better, but have now lost to the Bucks without Bogut and the Nets without everything, and barely got past the Lebronaires at home.
And there are a couple worrying factors. The first being that while not as bad as their record in New Jersey, the Bulls have lost 4 out of their last 5 in Toronto. And the Raptors seem to have an advantage in their odd afternoon weekend home games, as they get far more than any other NBA team.
It's still a game the Bulls should win. They have the better team, and better have the motivation.
Note: Today's game is available on NBATV for you out-of-market folk.