There were still a couple of playoff positions in play on the final night of the regular season in the Eastern Conference, but the Bulls made sure that they ended up with the more advantageous first round matchup.
By taking care of the Wizards 95-92, Chicago locked up the five seed in the East, and a first round date with the Brooklyn Nets in a series which will begin on Saturday.
It wasn’t easy for the Bulls, however, and given the way their entire season has gone, it seemed fitting that they’d struggle in this one.
Chicago got out to a lead of as many as 21 points in the first quarter, before giving back just about all of it in the second and waiting until the game’s final few possessions to clinch the victory.
The win was meaningful for the Bulls, because it allowed them to avoid a much tougher first round matchup with the Pacers, who would have been the opponent had they fallen to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.
The rest of the playoff matchups in the East are now official, as well.
The Heat will face the Bucks in the one-eight matchup, but we’ve known that for a few days now. The defending champs will open their title defense by hosting Game 1 on Sunday.
The Knicks will meet the Celtics in the postseason, which on paper may be the best and most intriguing first round matchup in the East.
New York will host Boston for Game 1 of their series at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The Pacers will face the Hawks in the three-six matchup, and that series will open in Indiana on Sunday.
Chicago’s win ensures them a winnable matchup against the Nets in the four-five matchup, but they’ll open on the road in Brooklyn. The good news for the Bulls is that Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Marco Belinelli all returned for limited minutes in the season finale on Wednesday, which means they should be available to play without restrictions once the playoffs begin on Saturday.