NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Race for Eighth Heats Up

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IMarch 30, 2010

CHICAGO - MARCH 01: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a dunk against the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center on March 1, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Hawks defeated the Bulls 116-92. 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 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The final two weeks of the NBA season are upon us, and there are still some great battles for playoff position left.

In the West, the Lakers have a nearly insurmountable lead for first, and Memphis has fallen too far off the pace to reach eighth. 

Just four losses separate the second-place Mavericks from the eighth-place Spurs.  The only thing left in the West are the races to avoid fourth and eighth.

In the East, Cleveland has run to the top of their conference and the league, and no one is chasing them. 

Orlando looks safe in second and third overall in the NBA. Atlanta and Boston are tied with 47 wins and will finish no worse than fourth.

The surprising Milwaukee Bucks are in fifth, but will be challenged by Miami, which has the softer schedule.

But the big fight will be over who gets the eighth spot in the East and the privilege of facing Cleveland in the first round. Not that facing Orlando actually improves one’s odds all that much.

With nine games remaining, three teams sit three games apart for the final two playoff spots in the East. Charlotte leads Toronto by two games, and Toronto leads Chicago by one.

Chicago plays Charlotte twice and Toronto once before it’s over.

 BOBCATS No. 738-35RAPTORS No. 836-37BULLS No. 935-38 
 vs. Philadelphia26-47vs. LA Clippers27-46vs. Phoenix47-26 
 vs. Milwaukee40-32@ Philadelphia26-47@ Washington21-51 
 @ Chicago35-38vs Golden State21-52vs. Charlotte38-35 
 vs Atlanta47-26@ Cleveland58-16vs. Milwaukee40-32 
 @ New Orleans35-40vs. Boston47-26vs. Cleveland58-16 
 @ Houston36-36@ Atlanta47-26@ New Jersey10-64 
 vs. Detroit23-50vs. Chicago35-38@ Toronto36-37 
 @ New Jersey10-64@ Detroit23-50vs. Boston47-26 
 vs. Chicago35-38vs. New York26-47@ Charlotte38-35 

Each team has five home games and four road games left. But that’s where the similarities end.

The Bobcats have the edge for seventh with only one game left against a top-tier team. But the 'Cats' first playoff appearance ever isn’t guaranteed.

This team has not played well on the road and face two very good, non-playoff teams in their own buildings in New Orleans and Houston. 

Plus, the home game against Milwaukee will be tough, and Chicago might yet come alive.

The Bobcats likely only have to beat Philadelphia, Detroit, and New Jersey to make the playoffs. Just pencil them in right now!

The Toronto Raptors could have been tied with Charlotte and put the Bulls all but out of the picture, if they could have held off Denver and Miami in the fourth quarter recently. But by going 1-3 over their last four games, the Raptors have left the door wide open for the Bulls.

Fortunately for Toronto, they hold the tie-breakers over both Chicago and Charlotte. And in a race this tight, it might just matter.

The Raptors have three very tough games left on their schedule against Cleveland, Boston, and Atlanta. But they also have four home games versus the Clippers, GSW, Chicago, and New York (where the Raptors are an impressive 23-13).

If the Raptors can pick off road wins against Philadelphia and Detroit, there may not be much Chicago can do to catch them.

Eighth place is there for the Raptors to win. They just have to win the games they are expected to.

Chicago’s schedule is significantly tougher than Toronto or Charlotte.

Their five home dates are all against teams that are ahead of them. With matchups against Phoenix, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Boston, it’s possible that Chicago could lose all five remaining home games.

Chicago’s easiest matchups are road games against Washington and New Jersey.  But to have any chance at the playoffs, the Bulls will have to beat Charlotte and Toronto on the road—plus win more than their share of their remaining home games.

The Bulls' fate is no longer in their own hands.

They need the Raptors or the Bobcats to lose some games that are penciled in as wins. Then the Bulls need to win the three remaining head-to-head games left against them.

Derrick Rose says the Bulls are going to make the playoffs. But it doesn’t look good.

With 16 days and nine games remaining, every game is a big game, and the scoreboard-watching will be intense.


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