Can the Bulls Steal the 8 or 9 Seed in a Dramatic Final Week?

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Can the Chicago Bulls Steal the 8 or 9 Seed in a Dramatic Final Week?

Chicago Bulls, NBA

Four more games.

On the one hand, I’m relieved. The emotional distress this team has caused me since October most definitely isn’t good for my long-term health. But on the other hand, who doesn’t like postseason basketball?

The Bulls have done everything in their power since the All-Star break to put themselves in a position to play past April 9. Now, all they need is one more win or an Orlando Magic loss to ensure that happens.

The Bulls’ final four games: Hawks, Bucks, Mavericks, Pistons

The Magic’s final four games: Cavaliers (x2), Nets, Heat

Considering Basketball-Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report gives the Bulls just a 0.1 percent chance of missing the Play-In Tournament at this point, let’s safely assume they lock things up this week. The bigger question now is whether or not they can move one or two more spots up the East standings.

If they didn’t end up taking down the Memphis Grizzlies in a miraculous comeback effort yesterday, the answer would likely be no. But they did, so the Bulls remain just 1.0 game behind both the Hawks and Raptors (who both also won on Sunday) for the 8 and 9 seeds, respectively. The Hawks currently sit above Toronto despite both being 39-39 due to holding the tiebreaker advantage.

With all of that being the case, the Bulls’ next game presents a big opportunity. If Chicago can beat Atlanta on Wednesday, the two will be tied at 39-40. A win would also secure the Bulls the tiebreaker advantage over the Hawks. This means Atlanta would drop into the 10 seed and Chicago would move into the 9 seed. Of course, this would then put the Bulls in a position to host the Hawks in the 9-10 Play-In game next week.

I probably should say, though, that even if the Bulls do not win, there is a world where they can still finish above the Hawks. The Hawks would need to go either 0-3 or 1-2 in their final three games. Meanwhile, the Bulls would have to go either 2-1 or 3-0 in that same stretch. This would mean they end with the same record. And the Bulls would still hold the tiebreaker advantage in that situation since they have a better overall conference record. The only thing that trumps conference record is being a division leader. And the Hawks are currently 2.0 games behind the Heat for the southeast division title.

So what about the Raptors? Well, Toronto gets to face the hardcore tanking Hornets in their next game. Assuming this is a victory, that would move them to 40-39 on the season and put them in the driver’s seat for the 8 seed. Unlike the Hawks, if the Bulls want to also pass the Raptors in the standings, they would need Toronto to win no more than two of its final four games. If they were to go 2-2, the Bulls would then need to go 4-0. If they were to go 1-3, the Bulls would need to go at least 3-1. And if they were to go 0-4, the Bulls would just need to go 2-2.

Keep in mind, the Bulls have to finish one full game ahead of the Raptors to surpass them since Toronto holds the tiebreaker advantage this season.

The Hawks’ final four games: Bulls, Wizards, 76ers, Celtics

The Raptors’ final four games: Hornets, Celtics (x2), Bucks

Again, while the more likely of the two situations is that the Bulls surpass the Hawks, it’s not like the Raptors have a particularly favorable schedule. Both the Celtics and Bucks could be trying in those games. After all, they are in their last-second battle for the No. 1 seed.

OK … did you follow all of that? I know it feels like a lot. But I’m hoping it helps give a somewhat clearer understanding of what’s at stake over these next seven days.

Anyway, for more on the recent win that made this week all the more interesting, check out our Bullets here:

You can also check out a brief preview of the potential Play-In matchups here:

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.