Is Brooklyn looking for the down escalator?
Brooklyn had a chance to clinch the No. 5 seed on Tuesday at home against New York, but missed badly. Despite starting most of their regulars, the Nets lost 109-98 in a game that wasn’t very close in the second half.
The Bulls’ first-round playoff opponent remains in doubt heading into Wednesday’s final night of the regular season, but a scenario where the Bulls are No. 4 and Washington moves up to No. 5 has become more realistic.
If Brooklyn loses on Wednesday at Cleveland and the Wizards win at Boston, then Washington
will be No. 5, while the Nets drop to No. 6. There’s a good chance Brooklyn rests many of its regulars against the Cavs and coach Jason Kidd didn’t place much importance on the outcome when speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s game.
“Fifth, sixth, same thing,” Kidd said, according to the New York Daily News. “You know, we’re going to play Toronto or Chicago. You play 82 games to get a seed and we’ll be fifth or sixth.”
Meanwhile, the Bulls could have a decision to make tonight. Lose to Charlotte and they’ll be assured of the No. 4 seed. They can’t really control their first-round opponent, but settling at No. 4 would mean the Bulls could match up with slumping Indiana in the second round, rather than Miami. If they get that far, obviously.
If Toronto wins at New York tonight, then it won’t matter what the Bulls do. The Raptors get the tiebreaker on the basis of being a division champ and will get the No. 3 seed. But who knows what could happen with the Knicks? Carmelo Anthony is out with a partially torn labrum, but New York has gone 15-5 over the past 20 games, beating both the Bulls and Raptors in the past week. A Bulls win and Raptors loss puts the Bulls at No. 3.
Coach Tom Thibodeau’s mantra is the Bulls play every game to win and it makes no sense to try to duck anyone in the playoffs. True, it’s tough to pick a favorite between Brooklyn and Washington. The Wizards have less playoff experience, but some scary talent. The Nets have made changes since last year, but the Bulls still match up reasonably well.
If a vote was taken inside the locker room, though, there’s a good chance the Bulls would prefer to be on Indiana’s side of the bracket, which makes the No. 4 seed preferable.
The Bobcats have something to play for tonight. They could move up to the No. 6 seed (and avoid Miami in the first round) if they beat the Bulls and Washington loses. That fact also gives the Wizards incentive to play well against the Celtics.
Cleveland and Boston could conceivably lose a few lottery chances by winning tonight, so there’s another wild card thrown into the mix.
Originally, the NBA schedule had all the Eastern and Central time zone games starting at the same time (7 p.m. Central). Then a couple weeks ago, Bulls-Bobcats was moved an hour earlier.
So the Bulls won’t be able to scoreboard-watch tonight, because Nets-Cavs, Raptors-Knicks and Wizards-Celtics all tip off an hour later. Why that happened is unclear.
Here’s the one certainty – by the end of the night, we’ll know the Bulls’ playoff fate. We already know they will open at home, either Saturday or Sunday, at the United Center. Based on the Blackhawks’ schedule, Game 2 for the Bulls will almost certainly be on Tuesday.