The Bulls and Raptors have been jockeying for the three seed for a little while now, and with Toronto sweeping a home-and-home against the Celtics, the onus is now on the Bulls to do the same starting tonight.
When looking at the schedules of not only Toronto and Chicago, but Brooklyn as well, all three have a handful of Eastern bottom-feeders left on their schedules. Between a mix of Milwaukees, Philadelphias and Orlandos though, one stretch stands out. After playing the Magic tonight, the Raptors face a daunting week, playing at Miami, and at home against Houston and Indiana. That represents Chicago’s best chance to vault them for the third seed, as Toronto’s final five games are ridiculously easy, with Philly, New York, Detroit, and not one but two games against the Bucks. In order to catch them in the next week though, the Bulls can’t afford to stumble over the next two nights.
Losers of eight of their past nine contests, the Celtics would privately be happy to help the Bulls in their quest. Danny Ainge might publicly downplay the significance of this year’s draft class, and Rajon Rondo could very well be the most competitive guy in the league, but that doesn’t mean Boston is really trying to win at this point. They’ve been doing things like having Jared Sullinger chuck threes, as it’s a win-win situation. If he makes them? Great, they’ve made a young player more versatile and efficient. If not? They learn his limitations and waste possessions in games they have no incentive to win.
The Bulls should be able to get off to a fast start, as Kris Humphries will start against Joakim Noah. Brandon Bass also starts up front, so even with Carlos Boozer in early rather than Taj Gibson, the Bulls should dominate the boards. The two players that pose the greatest threat to the Bulls are Rondo, obviously, and Jeff Green. Boston fans bemoan Green’s inconsistency, but that variance means he could very well get hot for a night.