How the East was won, seedings update for the Eastern Conference

How the East was won, seedings update for the Eastern Conference

The Bulls went on the road to defeat the Atlanta Hawks sending them out of the playoffs [by percentage points]. Unfortunately, Dwight Howard was out for the Rockets, and the Raptors defeated Houston to win one of their two remaining tough games to remain tied for the third seed. Toronto holds the tiebreaker.

The drop has been severe for the Hawks, early on, Atlanta was sitting in third place in the East. They even maintained their position briefly after losing Al Horford, but in the end, the Atlanta couldn't maintain their position and has slid all the way out of the playoffs. Based on recent play, it sure feels like the Knicks will hang on to that eighth spot.

Indiana has officially fallen behind Miami for the race to become the #1 seed, and they'll likely need to beat the Heat in their final matchup to take it back. Their last meeting will be in Miami. That said, the way the Pacers have played recently, even if they beat the Heat in their series finale, they won't take the #1 seed.

The Pacers had the #1 seed in the bag, but they've gone 7-10 over their last 17 games. It's a tough break for a team that felt they would have beaten Miami last season with home court advantage. The Pacers simply don't look as good as people thought they were and are playing far below the standard of the other elite teams in the NBA.

If they defeat Miami in the playoffs, it will be purely due to the huge interior size advantage. Their team is really built to match up well against the Heat, but they'd get slaughtered in the finals if they made it that far.

As for the Heat, they haven't played all that great down the stretch either. Chris Bosh called out the whole team, and they've leaped to first in the conference more out of default than great play. The Pacers have simply been that bad.

As noted above the Bulls/Raptors are sitting tied, their remaining schedules are as follows.

Chicago Toronto
Milwaukee Indiana
@Washington @Milwaukee
@Minnesota Philadelphia
Detroit New York
@New York @Detroit
Orlando Milwaukee
@Charlotte @New York

The Bulls have three games left, all home, against teams we'd expect to roll over and die. Milwaukee, Detroit, and Orlando. The Raptors have four games left in that category @Milwaukee, Philadelphia, @Detroit, and Milwaukee.

The Bulls play two road games against teams that are pedestrian to pretty good in Washington/Minnesota, a road game against a Knicks team that is fighting for its playoff life, and a road game against the Bobcats that may or may not mean something to Charlotte in the finale.

The Raptors play one home game against a really good team in Indiana, but as noted above, it's been awhile since Indiana played like a really good team. They play the Knicks twice, but the Knicks fate may be decided by the finale rendering the final game meaningless.

I'd expect the Raptors to lose no more than two games over their final seven and finishing out 6-1 or even 7-0 is a possibility. That means the Bulls likely need to go at least 6-1 to take the #3 seed and earn themselves an easier match up in both rounds one and two.

The Brooklyn Nets look like they have a pretty good road to the four seed. They're two games up on Washington in the loss column and a game in the win column. Washington does hold the tiebreaker on them, but the Nets only have a road game against Miami and a home game against the Knicks (second to last game which might not mean anything) left on their schedule in term of opponents who don't stink.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats are way out in front of the eighth seed, and probably two games back in the loss column on the sixth seed. Odds are that Charlotte will stick where it is in seventh, especially given that they have a fairly tough schedule to close out the season. However, if they can pull into a tie with Washington, they do hold the tiebreaker.

I'm sure Charlotte would love to sneak into sixth in order to avoid Miami/Indiana despite neither team playing well down the stretch.

If I were calling the playoffs today.
New York vs Miami
Charlotte vs Indiana
Washington vs Chicago
Brooklyn vs Toronto

That said, a week ago I would have felt there's no way Indiana could drop out of the #1 spot, so things can still change fast.

Bulls doing more of the same

Nothing overly surprising last night for the Bulls. The Hawks held on for a little while. They built up a first quarter lead and kept the game close. They fought back here and there, but whenever they did D.J. Augustin answered the call. When it wasn't D.J. it was Kirk Hinrich, the two combined for 40 points on 15/28 shooting with 11 assists.

The two ball handler lineup is working well for Chicago, and I'm anxious to see what it looks like next year with a [hopefully] healthy Derrick Rose.

The Bulls continued on with a few disturbing trends. Their rebounding, again, wasn't all that good, and their defense struggled early but came together as the game went on. Part of that is surely the Boozer effect.

They look good offensively and are shooting the ball well. It's nice to see the team win some games due to offensive execution rather than defense/rebounding. Jimmy Butler knocked down three of eight from beyond the arc, but hit an important one to end the Hawks final shot to mount a comeback late in the fourth quarter.

Another 10/10/6 game for Noah who continues to lead the Bulls. I don't play fantasy basketball, but apparently Joakim Noah's a fantasy god this year, according to my buddy whom panicked when I told him that Noah's plantar fascitis kicked up as an April fools joke [which I shamelessly stole from realgm].

Chicago needs to keep it plowing through these final games if they want the three seed. They'll need to skip no steps and play to near perfection. Their remaining schedule definitely gives them a shot.

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  • Frank Vogel coaches much the same way as Tom Thibodeau, and it appears to be folly: All out, all the time, get that #1 seed, leaving nothing in the tank for the playoffs. Both coaches would hate to hear this but it's been confirmed: The NBA regular season is meaningless. Popovich has it figured out. Spoelstra has it figured out. Phil Jackson had it figured it out. C'mon Tom, time to figure it out.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    The Bulls identity is based on hard work and going balls to the wall. Thibs needs to be given credit for knowing when to limit minutes as well. Everyone minus Butler has had their minutes in the mid 30s.

    The team obviously buys into Thibs' philosophy and it works for them. I'd much rather see this Bulls team grind out wins, rather than "tanking" certain games for seeding.

    Pop is the gold standard for coaching, but his team is old. They need rest. Tim Duncan is like 38. Joakim is 29. The Bulls will be "rested" enough for the playoffs.

  • In reply to bpmueller:

    You make some really good points, but I think we've seen in past years that the Bulls have been unable to take up another gear in the playoffs and after seeing what has happened to the Pacers this year, I'm starting to think that no team can play balls to the wall for 82 games and then still find another level for the playoffs.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    True, but the Bulls have a very small chance of actually winning the title this year. Miami, SA can afford to treat the regular season differently than the Bulls because of their talent. Without Derrick, (and who knows what he'll look like when he comes back) the Bulls just aren't at that level. They've been much more fun to watch though and I've enjoyed seeing them form a new identity. Hopefully it will help them once Rose gets healthy again.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I would say that it is meaningless when you have elite talent, which those coaches have, but the Bulls do not, thus the regular season is their championship and the playoffs are actually meaningless other than to say that we got there.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Do you think the Bulls or Spurs were coasting when their star players were younger? Part of it is the age of the cast. Maybe Michael Jordan never figured it out, because he went hard every game.

    My point really is that there are different scenarios for different teams. The best teams with the most talent probably care less about homecourt than the teams trying to get any advantage they can.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    In all, I felt that Phil Jackson had a handle on how to turn up the intensity for the playoffs in a way that I don't think Thibs has mastered. It might be that those Bulls teams obviously had much more talent than these Bulls and more talent than everyone else in the league and meanwhile these Bulls don't really have enough talent, so once they reach the playoffs where everyone is playing hard and playing tough defense, the Bulls' talent shows up as rather ordinary.

    I agree with you that on their way to the top, the Bulls and Spurs fought their way every game, taking very few off. However, during their championship runs, I think the Spurs and Bulls and even MJ mentally took some regular season games during their championship runs, plus stars like MJ and Duncan got fourth quarters off and that sort of thing. Now, they won mostly 60+ games once even 72, so they obviously didn't take too many regular season games off but I think they did turn up the intensity for the playoffs in a way I haven't seen these Bulls do. Obviously they're nowhere near as talented as those groups but I still haven't really seen an uptick in intensity, with the possible exception of beating the Nets last year, which was a ton of fun.

  • Arguably the best player on the raptors is injured with a knee injury.

  • Doug, not sure why you put the Bulls in the 3-6 matchup when you said in your analysis that the Bulls need to go 6-1 or 7-0 to overtake Toronto for the 3 seed. Seems more like wishful thinking than fact based prognosication.

    The Bulls play all 4 of their loseable games on the road, I wouldn't be shocked if they did lose all 4 and surviving at 2-2 would be a good outcome. Then they have to maintain focus and win the 3 home games. Injuries aside, from a distance Toronto seems to be playing a better brand of ball than the Bulls. I think that we are locked into the 4/5 matchup with Brooklyn.

    I guess that Bulls fans are deluding themselves into thinking that we can beat Indy in the playoffs thus hoping to fall in their bracket, I don't. So if we are fortunate enough to make it to the second round(which I don't think we will if we play the Nets), and you are going to lose either way, wouldn't you rather play/lose to the Heat than Indy.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I'd rather play Indy and have a shot. I think the Bulls would have a shot (albeit a small one) against the Pacers. The Pacers aren't that great.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I too believe Bulls have a 'puncher's chance' against Indy and no chance against Miami. Though it is difficult to see Toronto stumbling to give up the 3 seed as Bulls have the tougher schedule remaining.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Wouldn't it just be more fun to annoy the shit out of Miami though. you know kind of like a gnat does to an elephant.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah, gnat to an elephant is about right. Bulls can annoy Miami in the regular season, but in the playoffs not so much.

  • As for last nights game, another stinker to watch as we gave up 54 points in the boozer quarters and 38 in the Taj quarters, including 5-5 from the 3 point line to open the first. The 3rd was a total boozerpaloozafest of every clown move that he has in his book on both offense and defense. SNL couldn't concoct a skit any more comical than boozers play. Just to highlight one, at about the midway point, Teague drove down the middle of the lane trying to split between boozer and Noah, boozer instead of stepping in front of Teague to cut of the drive stepped back to let his by then pushed him into Noah, who was then called for a tripping foul on Teague instead of boozer getting the deserved foul. Just another one of the hundreds of small unseen ways that boozer destroys the entire team on each and every play offense or defense. But hey, its all worth it to get 14 & 8 on under 45% shooting just so boozer and Stacey King can go nuts when boozer barely makes it over the rim once every other game for his signature "monster" left handed dunk.

    Also, I would like to know who the F-ing moron is whoi decided that Noah should guard Milsap(an undersized power forward) the entire game rather than whomever was playing center(Brand and Peric). I understand that Thibs is so terrified of boozer's D that he does this without even thinking about who is actually playing for the other team, but why did he continue to have Noah on Milsap even with Taj in the game. It makes no f-ing sense to have your best help defender guarding the perimeter all game. Everytime I looked Noah was running out to contest a shot at the 3 point line. This is a good reason why his rebounding has dropped noticabely of late. Really another subtle reminder of boozers all encompassing destructive influence, he turns the "genius" Thibs into a moron.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I hope this is not true, "boozers all encompassing destructive influence, turns the "genius" Thibs into a moron." No true genius would be so stupid. There must be something else at work.

    I will admit, however, that even very smart people can do really unwise things at times, like running their players into the ground so they are wiped out for the playoffs! Or drafting college guys who can't get their own shot and expecting a change when they join the NBA!

    But, generally,Thibs and the FO have done an above average job. Altho if the Jimmer signing takes the Bulls into the repeater tax potentially because Noah wins some award and it kicks his salary up, I might change my mind!

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Obviously, my comments were dripping with sarcasm, but I really don't understand Thibs reasoning for keeping Noah on Milsap even when Taj was in the game. It couldn't be because he thought they would get confused by switching asignments after boozer hit the bench, that would be silly, if not moronic.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Boozer provides offense and not everyone can do it, especially on this team. That stated, they really need to amnesty Boozer and move forward. Act like a big city team in this case and eat the last year of the contract. They will be a better team with that money allocated to Mirotic, DJ, and a couple of rookies.

  • Coach Doc Rivers has encouraged PG Chris Paul to not ball-hog so much, and the Clippers team is benefiting. This is what Thibs must demand of Derrick Rose next season!

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