The Chicago Bulls’ decisive win against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night did more than show the defending Eastern Conference champions they’ll have a tough time in the playoffs against the Bulls should they meet: it moved the Bulls’ magic number to clinch the East’s top playoff seed to one. Any combination of a Bulls win and a Miami Heat loss the rest of the season assures Chicago it will have homecourt advantage through at least the Eastern Conference Finals. Another way of looking at it: the Bulls would need to lose out, and the Heat would need to win out, for the Bulls to finish below no. 1 in the East.
Nobody could have expected the Bulls, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2007, would be this good this soon. Even with the additions of All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer and first-time head coach Tom Thibodeau, most reasonable folks pegged the Bulls as at least a year away from championship contention. But behind Derrick Rose, and the top-notch defense Thibodeau designed, here’s Chicago. Atop the East, and rolling better than ever since Michael Jordan left.