While the Chicago Bulls weren’t in action Tuesday night, they secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the second straight season as the Miami Heat lost to the Boston Celtics 78-66.
After a 93-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, the Bulls improved to 48-16 and lowered their magic number to lock up the East’s top spot to one, which meant they either had to win one of their remaining two games – on the road against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday and at home versus the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday – or have Miami (46-19) drop one of its last two contests.
It marked the seventh time in the franchise’s history the Bulls have notched the best record in the East. This season, they are also vying for the top seed in the NBA, with the San Antonio Spurs owners of an identical 48-16 record. Both the Bulls and Spurs went down the wire for the best overall record a year ago, as well.
The Bulls know the No. 1 seed is a valuable asset because of the home-court advantage that comes with it. However, Chicago had that edge last year and was not able to capitalize as it suffered a five-game series defeat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Having home-court advantage is a good thing, but the playoffs are a whole ‘nother season,” Bulls point guard and former champion Mike James told me during a phone conversation Friday night. “What you’ve done in the regular season is over with [in the playoffs]. It doesn’t matter how much success you had in the regular season … best record doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win an NBA championship. All that means is that you have the best regular-season record. [But] it puts you in home-court advantage and it allows you to play in front of your fans in the playoffs.”
The Bulls’ first-round opponent will either be the New York Knicks or the Philadelphia 76ers – two teams that are 34-30 entering Wednesday’s action. The playoffs tip off on Saturday.