Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah returned (though Noah barely played), and the Bulls dominated the hapless 76ers. It was a must win situation for the Bulls to remain in the playoff race. They now sit two and a half games back.
Derrick was back and didn't miss a beat. He was dominating prior to the injury and came back dominating again already. What was particularly amazing was Derrick shot 4 of 6 from behind the three point line. A healthy, dominant Derrick Rose will be necessary for the Bulls to make a run at the playoffs.
It was interesting to watch James Johnson as my fears of his play with Derrick Rose back came to fruition for at least this once game. Johnson seemed uninvolved for most of his floor time off the ball.
It was nice to get a blow out on the other end for a change.
With the win, the Bulls maintained their playoff position. Presently, the Bulls are 2.5 back from the Raptors (8th), 3 back from the Bobcats (7th), and 3.5 back from the Heat (6th).
Here's a look at the remaining schedules:
|Chicago 32-37||Toronto 34-34||Charlotte 35-34||Miami 36-34|
|@New Jersey||Boston||@Houston||@New York|
First, the tiebreaks:
Toronto > Chicago
Winner of Miami/Chicago's final game takes tie break (Chicago owns conference tiebreaker if they split the series which happens with a win)
Charlotte and the Bulls play twice and are presently split 1 and 1. Either team wins the tie break with two wins, in the case of a split, it comes down to conference record which could go either way depending the path taken where they end up tied
The Bulls might have the toughest remaining schedule left though they do play a lot of their competitors. They have two against Charlotte, one against Miami, and one against Toronto. However, they only have four remaining games against the sisters of the poor. On the other hand, they only play Phoenix, @Cleveland, and Boston for teams that are notably above average, and it's sketchy including Boston in that list these days. If the Bulls can catch fire, only the road game against Cleveland looks incredibly daunting, but if they play poorly they could lose eight games too.
The Raptors are right there with the Bulls in terms of schedule, and may have it a bit rougher depending on your perspective. They have two additional games against bad teams, but they play one additional game as well. They have more road games than the Bulls which somewhat compensates for the slightly easier opponents, and they have five games against "good" opponents as well though they catch most of them at home (Utah, Denver, Boston, @Cleveland, @Atlanta).
Charlotte has six games left against cellar dwellers, but they have two games left against the Bulls. Their schedule is fairly light overall with Atlanta being the one really good team they have left. They do have some middle of the road games, but it's a schedule they should perform well in, especially since it's home friendly.
Then we can just forget about Miami. They have 36 wins, and they have nine games
left against absolutely atrocious teams. While it's not technically
impossible the Bulls pass Miami, Miami certainly isn't going to be the
team in 8th who we're trying to pass at the end.
In terms of chasing the eighth spot, Charlotte and Toronto are both within reach still. Toronto moreso due to the schedule and their recent level of play making them more likely to collapse. Charlotte, because the Bulls play them twice and with two wins could narrow the gap to where they only need to outperform them by a single game the rest of the season (though given schedule's that'd be a challenge for the Bulls even if they got both head to head wins).
The best case scenario for the Bulls is to pass both teams of course, but the team we want out of the playoffs is Toronto as missing the playoffs will likely push Bosh out of town. If the Bulls do sneak in, that also strikes me as the most likely scenario as well.