Bulls playoff opponent still undecided

Bulls playoff opponent still undecided

Posted by mikemcgraw on Tue, 04/16/2013 - 10:37

By beating Orlando on Monday, the Bulls ensured their first-round playoff opponent will remain a mystery until Wednesday night.

The Bulls are a half-game behind Atlanta for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but won the season series 2-1 and therefore own the tiebreaker against the Hawks.

Atlanta hosts Toronto on Tuesday night. As the Bulls discovered twice last week, the Raptors seem intent on finishing the season strong, so a Hawks win may not be a foregone conclusion.

An Atlanta loss to Toronto would put the Bulls in the driver's seat. They could claim the No. 5 spot by beating Washington, regardless of what the Hawks do in their final game at New York on Wednesday.

If the Hawks beat the Raptors, then the Bulls would need Atlanta to lose to New York to have any chance at finishing fifth. If the Bulls lose to the Wizards, the Hawks would have to drop both of their final two games for the Bulls to finish fifth.

Whichever team finishes fifth will play Brooklyn in the first round. The No. 6 seed faces Indiana. The other series in the East are already set -- Miami (1) vs. Milwaukee (8) and New York (2) vs. Boston (7).

Whether the Bulls would have a better chance against Indiana or Brooklyn is anyone's guess. They went 3-1 against the Nets and 1-3 against the Pacers.

Brooklyn has three all-star caliber scorers in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. But depth, defense, rebounding and overall team chemistry are question marks for the Nets.

All three of the losses to Indiana were competitive and the Bulls were usually shorthanded. Joakim Noah missed two of the four games, Kirk Hinrich missed two, Richard Hamilton missed three and Taj Gibson sat out once.

Pacers guard George Hill hasn't been himself late in the season and is expected to sit out the final game to rest a groin injury. This will also be the first postseason for Paul George as Indiana's go-to guy. He might do a great job, but is unproven against playoff pressure.

In the West, Oklahoma City has clinched the top seed and San Antonio will be No. 2. Denver will most likely be the No. 3 seed, Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers will probably square off in the 4-5 matchup, while Golden State and Houston are still battling for 6 and 7 (Rockets have the tiebreaker).

The Lakers can clinch a playoff spot and also move past Houston into the No. 7 seed by beating the Rockets on Wednesday. If the Lakers lose, Utah could grab the last playoff spot in the West (and knock out the Lakers) by winning at Memphis.

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