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NBA Playoff Picture: Bulls' Magic Number To Clinch East Stands At One

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.