With just one day (!) remaining in the regular season, only one spot is still up for grabs in the Eastern Conference playoffs — the fifth seed, or the team that will eventually be the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round opponent. The Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls both still have a shot at fifth, and the loser will fall to sixth, playing the Indiana Pacers.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the scenarios:
The Nets will play the Bulls if… The Bulls win OR the Hawks lose. The Bulls control their own destiny here. The Bulls and Hawks are both 44-37, and the Bulls won the season series between these two teams, which is the tiebreaker should the teams finish with identical records.
The Nets will play the Hawks if… The Hawks win AND the Bulls lose. The Hawks would have to finish with a better outright record than the Bulls if they want to earn the fifth seed. The Hawks had a chance to control their own destiny, but sat star center Al Horford last night against the Toronto Raptors as the Raptors blew them out, 113-96.
Tonight’s matchups: The Hawks play the 53-28 New York Knicks, who locked themselves into the second seed last week. The Knicks will sit Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Bulls play the 29-52 Washington Wizards, the team that the Nets beat 106-101 on Monday night despite the Nets sitting four of their starters.
Prediction: The Bulls will be the fifth seed. It would be surprising if the Bulls lost AND the Hawks won, considering the matchups.