MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 29: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls is guarded by LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat during a game at American Airlines Arena on January 29, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls are in a tight battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.
The 2012 NBA playoffs are still a few months away, but the race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is coming into focus after the All-Star break. The Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat are the runaway favorites to grab that coveted top spot, and the Heat (27-7) currently have a half-game edge over the Bulls (27-8) in the standings. The Bulls are better at home (13-2) than they are away from the United Center (14-6), and every little bit will be needed for Derrick Rose and company to take down LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat.
If the Eastern conference playoffs were to start today (I know, I know), the Heat would take on the Boston Celtics in the first round, while the Bulls would be matched up against the dangerous New York Knicks. SB Nation's Tom Ziller broke down the race for the No. 1 overall seed in the East, and here is some of what he had to say:
Were this a season of normal length, the Heat would be on track for a 65-win campaign, and the Bulls would be on track for a 63-victory season. The NBA has never seen two 63-win teams come out of the same conference, so this would be a historic duopoly if the pace holds. (Of course, the teams wouldn't be getting to 63 wins this season because of the lockout, but the winning percentages over 77 percent would be a first.)
This race could come down to the last games of the season, and it should be a good one. But remember that Chicago had home court advantage in the playoffs last season ... and the Heat were still able to knock them out in five.