Chicago Bulls' Loss to Miami Heat Might Cost Them Home-Court Advantage

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIApril 20, 2012

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 19: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is dragged down by C.J. Watson #7 of the Chicago Bulls during a game at American Airlines Arena on April 19, 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)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Just a week ago, the Chicago Bulls' overtime victory over the Miami Heat seemingly wrapped up home-court advantage in the playoffs for them in the Eastern Conference. What a difference a week makes.

The loss Thursday night in Miami left Chicago one-and-a-half games ahead of Miami and just one game ahead in the loss column.

The Bulls are 7-6 in their last 13 games, so listening to those who say I'm too negative, that's over .500. That's the best I have for you.

If Miami sweeps their last four games, they can sneak in ahead of the Bulls if they lose a conference game to either Indiana or Cleveland. Miami has two games against the woeful Washington Wizards, one against Houston and, in their toughest matchup, one against Boston. Chicago also has Dallas on the schedule Saturday night at home.

Some people think home-court advantage is the only way the Bulls can beat the Heat, assuming they meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. I have said previously I think Miami can still win even if the Bulls have home-court.

It didn't deter them last year, and I don't think it will this year, though during the season they have played much better at home. They have an NBA-best 27-4 mark at home, while they're only 18-13 on the road.

Indiana's not fond of the Bulls and think they can beat them. They're locked into the No. 3 seed, and by beating the Bulls, they would likely face them in the second round of the playoffs if the scenario I painted happens.

The Bulls as the top seed means Indiana probably faces Miami in the second round, which is a much tougher matchup for them.

Assuming the Bulls stay at No. 1, Boston would be the likely opponent in the second round. Though they have played well lately, they're an older team who I don't think would hold up as well as Indiana, who gave the Bulls a really tough series last year and are stronger this season.

A first-round match against the 76ers, with Boston following, is the best route to keep the Bulls as healthy as possible for the Heat.   

Philadelphia doesn't play a real physical brand of basketball, and they don't have a star. Boston has star power, but it's old, and they aren't likely to beat up on the Bulls.

New York is much better than the team that Mike D'Antoni was coaching earlier in the year. They have a legitimate star in Carmelo Anthony, who the Bulls have a hard time defending, along with other players that would make this an unenviable first-round opponent.

If Chicago can get by them, and I think they'd need Derrick Rose relatively healthy to do that, they'd get the Pacers. Indiana is a big, physical team that is not beneath taking a cheap shot at Rose or other players on the Bulls.

They did exactly that last year against the Bulls in the first round, and they gained confidence that they could beat them. If not for blowing a couple of games late, they might have done it.

In addition, the Pacers added David West to the team. While they don't have any superstars, they have some very good players along with a deep roster like the Bulls. They somewhat resemble the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons championship team, as they are built on a strong foundation without that one big-time player.

I don't think they're as good as Chicago, but they would give the Bulls a very tough series and likely soften them up for their next opponent.

I'm thinking that will be Miami, who now have a reason to show up every night. Some observers think you can't turn it on and off, but I think Miami can take it to another level when they want to, and they definitely want to.

They weren't brought together to finish second. Another season without a ring would start to bring talk of them as chokers and a team that might never win even one, let alone multiple championships like their players predicted when they all went to South Beach. 

It also would probably bring about trade rumors, with Chris Bosh the likely one to move.

They will be motivated to make this the year and stop all that talk.

In the East, the Bulls are the only ones who realistically stand in their way, but they need to be as healthy as possible, and they need to be the No. 1 seed.