As you’ve surely heard, the Heat (52-22) and Pacers (53-23) are competing for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Below them, it seems the next four teams have paired off in their seeding battles.
- No. 3 and No. 4: Bulls (43-32) and Raptors (43-32)
- No. 5 and No. 6: Nets (40-34) and Wizards (39-36)
So, barring any of these teams rising and falling a level, Chicago will play Brooklyn or Washington in the first round.
The Bulls have won two of three over the Nets, the same team they beat in the playoffs last season. On the other hand, Chicago is 0-2 against the Wizards this season (with a third matchup coming Saturday).
If Brooklyn moves to fifth and the Bulls are third, would Chicago intentionally lose to drop to fourth and secure a better matchup?
Joakim Noah, via Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com:
“We’re just trying to play good basketball,” Noah said. “There’s no way in hell we’re going to try and lose games to match up against anybody. I think whatever happens, happens, so we’re just going to keep playing our game, keep winning as much as we can, and then (we) can’t wait for the playoffs.”
Every team says this, but with the Bulls, I actually believe it.
Remember when the Bulls lost Derrick Rose for the season? Remember when they traded Luol Deng for zero help this season? Remember when they were 9-16?
Chicago dug itself out of that deep hole because the team – led by Tom Thibodeau and backed by Noah – has one of the strongest identities in the league. The Bulls don’t quit. They play hard, and they play to win every game – maybe even to a fault.
I don’t think they can just turn that on and off, and if that means trying to beat the Washington rather than Brooklyn in the playoffs, that’s what they’ll do.