The Bulls have been reeling. And sure, that loss to the Kings was bad. And the loss to the Knicks was worse...wait, no, nothing is worse than losing to the Kings.
But they rebounded a bit in beating a (nominal) NBA team like the Wizards, and have done a couple very important things this year:
- racked up lots of early season Ws
- beat the teams they’re directly competing with in the standings
So in all actuality, while the team doesn’t look good on the court to where the first round is worrisome, it’s not a worst-case scenario.
Because, no matter how bad the Bulls have been, they can’t compete in a race down the standings with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For one thing, that win against the Cavs last weekend simply meant more than any ‘bad’ loss. The Bulls now win any tiebreaker against them and also any tiebreaker with the Toronto Raptors, which is convenient as with their win on Wednesday night those Raptors are now indeed tied with the Bulls.
But while it’s a bit of bummer that the Bulls may fall behind the Raptors in the standings in the season’s stretch run, they are extremely unlikely to fall beyond that to play-in land.
Because the Cavs, who lost their game on Wednesday to fall two games behind the Bulls, are really down bad. Like the Bulls have, Cleveland’s gone 4-6 in their last 10 games. But unlike the Bulls they are adding to thei injury pile: Evan Mobley is the latest, and likely most critical, Cavalier to now be missing significant time, as the Rookie of the Year favorite is out at least the next two games with an ankle sprain. Mobley joins frontcourt mate and All Star Jarrett Allen as inactive. The Cavs also lost rotation contributor Dean Wade for the season, and are the latest victims of the Rajon Rondo con-job as the team’s only backup point guard hasn’t played in weeks.
In the Cavs Wednesday loss against the Mavericks, they started 10-day signee Moses Brown at center, and played guys named Lamar Stevens, Dylan Windler, RJ Nembhard Jr. (fake create-a-player? it’s a superfluous ‘junior’...), and Brandon Goodwin.
So even if the rest of the season schedule slightly favors the Cavs over the Bulls, and as we know the Bulls can lose to anybody...this iteration of the Cavs is just not going to make up 3 games (tiebreakers, yeah!) in six remaining to sink the Bulls into the play-in seeds.
Cavs: @Atlanta (back-to-back), @NewYork, Sixers (b2b), @Orlando, @Brooklyn, Bucks
Bulls: Clippers, Heat, Bucks, Celtics (b2b), Hornets, @Minnesota
It truly does not matter if the Bulls get leapfrogged by the Raptors in the 5th seed. The top 4 teams in the East are all jockeying for position themselves, and there’s really no way of knowing who is going to slide or rise with strategic rest or trying to avoid the Nets in the first round or getting ‘on the better side of the bracket’ or whatever.
Bulls just can’t fall into 7th. And thanks to the Cavs injuries, they won’t!
Now, if only we could be this zen about how the team is actually playing and how that will fare in any playoff matchup...