Thursday, March 24, 2005

The prep test

The Bulls have struggled at times, but have kept their heads above water with a 6-7 record.  With other teams around them slipping and firing coaches left and right, I suppose 6-7 isn't that bad. Here's the East standings:

 1.  Miami -- 
 2.   Detroit 9.0 
 3.   Boston 13.5 
 4.  Washington 14.0 
 5.  Cleveland 15.0 
 6.  Chicago 15.5 
 7.  Indiana 17.0 
 8.  Philadelphia 18.0 
 9.  Orlando 19.0 
 10.  New Jersey 19.5 
 11.  New York 21.5 
 12.  Toronto 23.0 
 13.  Milwaukee 24.0 
 14.  Charlotte 37.5 
 15.  Atlanta 40.0

While looking inconsistent early in the month, including losses @Milwaukee, @Clippers, and at home against the Hornets, the next two games are huge: A road game against the Celtics followed the next night at home against the Pacers.

We've come to the point in the season where it's time to realistically talk about playoff seedings. Even the players (and Skiles!) have been doing it. The Bulls Report has beaten me to the punch, however:

It's conceivable not only that the Bull could pass the Cavs and take the 5 slot, but also that they could slip into the 4 slot, past the Wiz. There are even some people talking about getting the 3 slot by passing the Pistons and winning the division. That seems a little optimistic.

I'd like to land in the 4 or 5 slot, playing either Washington or Cleveland. I think in a 7-game series, the Bulls would do well against either team. We want to avoid the 6 slot as it looks like the Celtics will be the 3 seed, and they've been tough to beat all year.

It's true, the Bulls have had their problems against Boston, losing 2 of 3 this season. And that was before the team re-acquired Antoine Walker. Since getting Walker the Celtics have been absolutely on fire, and no doubt both teams know that if the playoffs started today they'd be facing eachother.

To be honest I think that Bulls fans shouldn't be scared of a 7 game series against the Celtics. While they have been on a roll, and sport a really impressive mix of veterans and rookies, I think that the Bulls' defense can tilt an entire series in their favor. As long as it's consistent, they should be in every game. Then hand the ball over to Gordon of offense and see how him and the rest of the kids respond to playoff pressure. Friday night's contest will show if they can do it for one game.

The following game is at home against the Pacers, who despite losing Jermaine O'Neal for the rest of the season are still clawing to a spot. Between them, Philly, Orlando and New Jersey, I don't see a single team that will overtake the Bulls in the standings. A statement can be made Saturday to show that the Bulls can hold on the #6 spot. If that follows a win the night before in Boston, it shows that maybe the top 5 should start looking out.