The Chicago Bulls are down to the home stretch, there are three significant races for playoff positioning left to play out over the final 10 games concerning the Bulls.
1: Bulls vs Celtics for the #1 seed in the East
2: Bulls vs Heat for the #1 seed in the East
3: Bulls vs Lakers for home court in the finals
Pretty much every other race had been decided or moot.
In terms of tie breakers, the Bulls own the tiebreaker vs the Lakers and Heat and lose the tiebreaker vs the Celtics. (the Lakers tie breaker would be clinched with a win vs Minnesota or Phoenix, so I'm going to go ahead and assume the Bulls win at least one of those two games).
Here's a look at the remaining schedules
The Magic numbers break down like this presently:
vs Celtics: 9
vs Heat: 7
vs Lakers 9
For those not used to magic numbers, it's the number of combined Bulls wins + losses of the other team required for the Bulls to clinch the advantage against that team. With 10 games to go, the Bulls control their own destiny, and can lose one game and still maintain their seeding over all three teams even if any of them win out.
Against Miami, the Bulls can lose three games even if Miami were to win out.
The remaining schedules break down like this:
|@ Twolves||@ Pacers||@ Cavaliers||Mavericks|
|@ Pistons||@ Spurs||@ Wizards||@ Jazz|
|Raptors||@ Hawks||@ Twolves||Nuggets|
|@ Cavaliers||@ Bulls||Bobcats||@ Blazers|
|@ Knicks||@ Heat||@ Hawks||Spurs|
|Nets||@ Wizards||@ Raptors||@ Kings|
The Bulls schedule
The Bulls have a fairly balanced schedule remaining. They play five at home, five on the road. The Bulls should be major favored in every game remaining except possibly on the road against Orlando.
They should be heavy favorites against everyone except @Orlando, Boston, and perhaps the 76ers tonight. However, it's also worth looking at what the game means to each team.
The Magic are likely locked into the 4th seed already when the teams meet, and while I doubt they'll be resting anyone, their intensity may not match the Bulls intensity if the Bulls are still fighting for the #1 seed.
Worst case: 7-3, best case 10-0, likely 9-1 or 8-2.
The Celtics schedule
The Celtics have the toughest schedule remaining, though they catch a break with the Tim Duncan injury which takes a likely loss and gives them a good chance to win. The Celtics still have road games left against the Hawks, Heat, and Bulls on the schedule and seven road games overall.
I'd make the Celtics underdogs in at least two of their remaining games (Bulls, Heat), and the way they've been playing lately, who knows how hard they're going to push for anything at this point.
The Celtics are also caught in a battle with the Heat for the #2 seed where they hold the tiebreaker, but only have a one game lead remaining in the loss column. Do the Celtics really want to play round 2, 3, and the finals on the road in order to win a title? I doubt it. Are they going to start pushing their starters hard though? I doubt that too.
I think the odds of the Celtics catching the Bulls, despite a mere 1 game lead (2 games ties them, but Celtics win the tie), seem pretty low at this point. The Celtics have shown no sign of turning it around. I think the Celtics are likely to fall all the way to the three seed right now.
While they have the capability to win most of these games, factoring in their present level of play, it's easy to seem them dropping four or five games.
The Heat schedule
The Heat are probably too far back to catch the Bulls. The Bulls own the tiebreaker and three games in the loss column. I don't think the Bulls will finish the season 6-4 or worse which means even if the Heat win out, they aren't likely to catch Chicago.
However, looking at their schedule, the Heat have a pretty excellent chance at winning out. The toughest game left is a home tilt against the free-falling Boston Celtics. I think the Heat finish the season no worse than 9-1 and could win out. Only the Rockets, Celtics, and maybe @Hawks should pose any problems, and quite honestly, I think the Heat are considerable favorites over all those games.
Maybe they drop one game that you wouldn't expect, but the Heat haven't dropped many games that they shouldn't this season and have lost mostly just to the really good teams. As such, expect the Heat to win 9-10 games.
The Lakers schedule
The Lakers play plenty of tough games still, but almost all of them are on their home floor where it will prove difficult for any team to come in and win. They still play the Hornets, Mavericks, Nuggets, Thunder, and Spurs at home while taking on the Blazers on the road.
The Lakers are awfully hot right now, and they have home court for most of these games, but I don't see them winning out vs that group. The Spurs game could go in several directions depending whether or not Duncan is back yet and whether or not the game means anything.
I think the Lakers odds are similar to the Bulls the rest of the way. Their worst case is 7-3, their best case is to win out. I'm going to predict an 8-2 finish for the Lakers, but I wouldn't be surprised with something better.
The Bulls should take the #1 seed. Only Boston really cranking up their intensity a ton right now and winning out would likely change that. The most interesting race left is the Bulls vs Lakers for potential home court in the finals.
Granted, that race is also by far the least meaningful. The Bulls aren't favorites vs the field to come out of the East, nor are the Lakers favorites vs the field to come out of the west. The odds of this matchup happening aren't that great, but it's something both teams are still going to likely look at before resting anyone down the stretch.