The Celtics have been at the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season, but a recent rough patch with the Bulls' winning streak has them holding onto the top seed by just a head-to-head tiebreaker -- which could also shift in the Bulls' favor.
Once a thought not worth entertaining, the Bulls (47-18) and Celtics (47-18) are tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference with an equal amount of games played. The Celtics win the head-to-head tiebreaker, having taken two of three matchups -- both wins in Boston -- with one more remaining on the schedule in Chicago.
After losing a short-handed game to the Nuggets on the day they traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City (43-23) for Jeff Green and sent other packing for others, the C's ignited a five-game winning streak. But losing three of their four simply has them 6-4 since the trade deadline.
Meanwhile, the Bulls have won gone 9-1 over the same span, including their last six, to pass the Heat (46-21) -- who are 4-6 since the deadline, with a five-game losing streak -- and match the C's win-loss record. Miami sits in the third spot, two behind Boston and Chicago.
With uncertainty to whether the Hawks (38-28) will fall flat on their faces (again) or be troublesome and (LOL) get homecourt from the Magic (42-26), the Knicks (34-31) adding a weapon in Carmelo Anthony that can single-handedly win playoff games with Amar'e Stoudemire, and the 76ers winning 17 of their last 25 to threaten the Knicks' sixth seed, what was a huge gap between a two- and three-seed shows to have the top seed as the only seemingly safe spot. There isn't any team that matches up in a highly favorable manner against the Bulls, but at the same time, the Bulls are very beatable by the other six teams in the top-seven. If not in a seven-game series, there's the high likelihood the series' create a wear-and-tear and drama a team with homecourt in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs wouldn't normally face.
On the other hand, as the 76ers have separated themselves from the embarrassing-they're-in-the-playoffs teams, the basement children are fighting for the last scrap of food. The Pacers (28-38), Bobcats (28-38), and Bucks (26-39) are all well aware of their ceiling: getting spanked by the #1-seed in the first round of the playoffs.
Even if the Bulls beat the C's in Chicago on Apr. 7, it's entirely conceivable Boston wins 14 or 15 of their last 17 to close the season. One look at their remaining games kinda' makes me vomit a little in my mouth. Looking at the Heat's remaining 15 games, 12 or 13 wins is very realistic. On one hand, it's nice that those two play each other on Apr. 10, but the game is in Boston. The Bulls winning 13-to-15 of their last 17 also looks realistic, looking at their remaining games.
It's entirely realistic that the Celtics and Bulls each finish with 60-to-62 wins and the Heat get lose homecourt in the second round with a 58- or 59-win season. Of course, it's possible two teams fall on their faces for a bit and someone sneaks away with the top seed, posting a 57-win season. This final stretch will simply come down to teams playing above themselves, along with the hope others have the extraordinary bad runs of which all have show they're capable.
I hate to be trite in an ESPN-y kinda' way, as I just did, but the unknown is what makes this all very exciting. Watching the NBA get tougher in the last month where the top-seven teams in each conference can do serious damage to one another, I can't help see the value of homecourt and health seem to skyrocket, looking forward to the playoffs.
I hate the word "parity" because it's so subjective that you can't even use it anymore and when it's backed by data, that data usually represents a league plagued with unwatchable mediocrity, if not just an altogether awful quality of the game. In the latter case, "parity" becomes the invisible cloak around the naked emperor for know-nothing droolers to romanticize; for them to peddle this vice as a virtue in order to pander to the stupid. What all of this shows is that 'NBA balance of power problem' meme isn't just not a problem, but just flat-out made up by people undeserving of credibility.
I don't give a shit about parity and I fail to understand how someone who claims to appreciate competitive games can. What makes for a great NBA is high levels of diverse talents, competing at even higher levels. That's the NBA we currently have. It's the best it's ever been and trending upward