30 January 2011
Normally I hate when people look to far ahead. There is usually a whole lot to be accomplished before what ever people are looking ahead to can take place. When the Packers beat the Falcons everyone instantly started looking ahead to the Bears-Packers NFC Championship game. This drove me crazy because the Bears still had a wildcard game to take care of against the Seahawks. There are times when I find myself looking ahead too, but I’ll never admit it to anyone, just go about doing it quietly in my head because honestly I’m mad at myself for doing it.
However, I’m going to break my cardinal here and look ahead to the NBA postseason. It’s a long season and sometimes the grind can really kick in during the January/February months. Given the fact that we’re 13 games up on 2nd place Milwaukee in the Central Division standings and haven’t lost a game yet within the division (11-0) I think it’s safe even for me to assume that the Bulls are going to the playoffs.
As it stands right now the top 4 teams in the East seem pretty clear, however the order for those 4 is yet to be determined. I’m confident that the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, and Magic will finish 1-4 in the East this season. I like the Hawks, but I don’t think they have enough to sneak in to the top 4 in the conference. Personally, I believe that Boston is the class of the conference. They won it last year and until somebody knocks them off it’s still their conference. They’re currently 3 games up on the Bulls and Heat and are a very impressive 26-6 against the East. While there is still plenty of basketball to be played, I also think that the Magic will end up in the 4 spot in the East. They’re a very good basketball team but the fact that they play in the Southeast conference with the Heat and the Hawks hurts them. On the contrary, the Bulls schedule is loaded with weak divisional opponents that they can continue to beat up on.
If I’m right on those two predictions (a big if) that leaves the Bulls and the Heat in a battle for the #2 spot in the conference. They currently are tied with the Bulls owning the tiebreaker thanks to their head to head victory at the United Center. I think the battle for the 2-spot is huge for the following 2 reasons.
The first reason has to do with the first round playoff matchup. It appears as if there is a huge drop off between the 6th and 7th seeded teams in the Eastern conference. If the Bulls finish 3rd in the East they will face the 6-seed team, most likely the New York Knicks. If they finish 2nd in the East their first round matchup will be against the 7th seed (currently the 21-26 Philadelphia 76ers but other equally bad teams like the Bobcats and Bucks are right there in the running). While I would still expect the Bulls to win a first round matchup with the Knicks it would be a much tougher series than against the 76ers, Bobcats, or Bucks. We have struggled against New York this year and they’re the NBA house team. Stern will want a Chicago-New York series to go deep. I can just hear the renewed rivalry talk now.
Secondly, the 2-seed is also very important when you look even further ahead (I can’t believe I’m doing this) to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Assuming the Bulls and Heat would both advance to the second round, the higher seed would get the home court advantage. In what would be a very tough series the Bulls need every advantage they can get. And playing four games at the UC instead of 3 would be huge for a Bulls team that is currently 23-4 at home with wins over the best teams in the NBA like Boston, Miami, Orlando, and the LA Lakers.
Now again, this looking ahead was mostly just for fun. A whole lot can happen between now and the end of the season, for crying out loud we haven’t even hit the All-Star break yet. This entire playoff picture can look a whole lot different at the end of the season. However, with so much to play for it really makes the rest of these regular season games pretty big. I’ll be scoreboard watching for the rest of the season.
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