The Atlanta Hawks controlled their own destiny. Two wins, and they had fifth. However, if they’re really aiming for sixth they still control their own destiny since two losses puts them in sixth regardless of what Chicago does. The Hawks appeared to throw their game against Toronto as they played with minimal energy, rested Horford, and barely played their starters.
The move makes sense for the Hawks for many reasons I’ve discussed about the Bulls possibly preferring a sixth seed. They get to avoid Miami longer and may not view Indiana as a tougher matchup than the Nets. After all, the Nets at least have a couple of go to offensive players that Indiana lacks.
That said, the Nets are tissue soft up front, which makes them a team the Bulls have a much better shot of out hustling/physicalling for a series even if Deron Williams is the best offensive player on either team. The Bulls match up well against the Nets offensive strengths with Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich capable of guarding Johnson/Williams and a healthy Bulls team having enough options to throw at Brook Lopez.
Chicago should be able to dominate the series on the glass and as long as they get some shooting, they’ll have a pretty good shot at pulling off a win. I don’t know if the Bulls should be favored, but they at least shouldn’t be significant underdogs. If Derrick Rose were to play (haha, I know, I know….) the Bulls would instantly become significant favorites in the series.
Going into the final night of action on the season, a win or Hawks loss will pit the Bulls against the Nets while a Hawks win combined with a Bulls loss would drop the Bulls back down against Indiana. Based on what we saw last night, I think we can say that Atlanta won’t leave this to chance and will simply make sure to lose the game to New York.
The Bulls will play everyone and attempt to win, simply because Tom Thibodeau doesn’t know how to lose a game on purpose and because they actually want to get their better players to gel with each other prior to the playoffs since everyone is recovering from injury. So after a seesaw “It’s Brooklyn!, no it’s Indiana!” discussion for a couple weeks, I’d put money on Brooklyn now.
Which, of course, means it will likely end up being the Pacers.