The Bulls are standing in the No. 1 spot in the conference, but they’ll have to hold on tight.
Miami and Boston are still eyeballing that top spot. They are two games behind the Bulls and with less than 10 games remaining in the regular season, anything, maybe even something amazing, could happen.
It is the NBA, by the way.
Though the Magic are six-and-a-half games behind, there’s no huge gap that separates them from the other top three teams in the East right now.
Such a neck-in-neck race to the top exemplifies how closely these four teams match up and that the conference title is still anyone’s for the taking.
With Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah back for the Bulls and the team mostly healthy, the matchups get more exciting.
Both the Bulls and Celtics are defensive leaders in the league. The Bulls rank second in points allowed per game.
Who’s No. 1? Boston.
Offensively, the Bulls can’t afford to let Derrick Rose go cold. He’s not a streaky shooter from the outside and most of his amazingness (for lack of a better term) stems from his ability to drive to the basket and draw contact.
But how can he do that against a team that knows how to play the helpline?
His shooters have to be ready, namely Luol Deng and Kyle Korver, and so do his post players. The scary part is that Boston also runs a similar offense, including pick-and-rolls.
Boston did lose Kendrick Perkins, who mastered the art of setting screens. That’s one less body for Rose to ram into when guarding Rajon Rondo.
Speaking of Rondo: Could it be a coincidence that his shooting slump corresponds to the Celtic’s recent slumps?
Rose did have 17 assists against the Milwaukee Bucks the other night, but Rondo works best when he finds his teammates. He’s the main reason why the Celtics are ranked third in assists.
Both teams meet one more time in the regular season. Boston leads the series, 2-1. This time, they’ll have Garnett.
This time, the Bulls will have both Boozer and Noah.
The Bulls 3-0 lead against the Heat could easily fool stats-geeks.
Every...Single...Game was close.
The Bulls won at most by five points. They beat the Heat in South Beach. They beat the Heat without LeBron. And they beat the Heat with LeBron.
But when LeBron was out, Wade took over, even when the entire Heat team wasn’t doing so well. On all occasions, Bosh wasn’t scoring well either.
So the fact that all three scored 30 points in one night against the Houston Rockets and are on a five-game winning streak is scary for the Bulls.
A major weakness for the Heat is their backcourt. The Bulls can grab rebounds and post up all night. But they’re a team driven by egos, attitude and hype.
Though the Bulls are a more complete and better team, the Heat have three stars who seem to have finally found a way to mesh their talents.
The Magic are the only team among the Celtics and Heat that blew out the Bulls by about 30 points back in December.
The Bulls responded by winning the next two games. There’s still one more game left between the two.
Both are league leaders in rebounds per game, but Orlando has the upper hand when it comes to outside scoring with Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick.
Key for the Bulls will be having Noah and Omer Asik step up and guard Dwight Howard.
These four teams could potentially meet in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If they do, be ready for some Game 7 playoff action.