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NBA Playoff Picture: Chicago Bulls Have Inside Track For No. 1 Seed In East

The NBA playoffs start the weekend of April 16th, and for the first time in over a decade, the Chicago Bulls are in prime position to finish with the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose's MVP-caliber play, Tom Thibodeau's brilliant coaching, and a renewed commitment to defense have rocketed the Bulls to a 56-20 record, the top mark in the East and the second-best record in the league overall. Here's a look at how the Bulls can finish the season:

  • If the Bulls go 6-0, 5-1, or 4-2, they are assured of the East's best record and will open the postseason against its eighth seed, likely the Indiana Pacers. Neither the Miami Heat (54-23) nor the Boston Celtics (53-23) can catch Chicago if the Bulls close with a 4-2 record or better.

  • If the Bulls finish on a 3-3 run, both the Heat and the Celtics would need to win out in order to catch them. Because the Bulls play the Celtics on Thursday, Chicago can officially end Boston's longshot bid to top them in the standings with a win there.

  • If the Bulls close the season 2-4, then Miami must win out in order to overtake them. Because the Bulls won the season series against the Heat, 3-0, Chicago owns the tiebreaker against them. Thus, the Heat must finish with a better overall record than the Bulls to have the no. 1 seed in the East. Boston would also need to win each of its six remaining games.

  • If the Bulls stumble into the postseason 1-5, then the Heat would need a 4-1 finish; Boston would need no worse than a 5-1 finish.

  • Should Chicago truly collapse and finish the season 0-6, the margin for error for Miami and Boston increases: Miami could go 3-2 and still take the East crown, while the Celtics could afford to go 4-2.

Clearly, as everything stands right now, the Bulls control their destinies. It would take a remarkably poor showing in the season's final six games for them to lose command of the East's top seed, which would ensure them homecourt advantage through the Eastern Conference Finals.

Further, the Bulls have an advantageous remaining schedule, as they'll face playoff teams (Boston, Orlando, New York) in only three of their final six games. Even if Chicago were to lose its games against the post-season bound clubs and win against the riff-raff, both Miami and Boston would have to win out to catch them for the East's top seed.