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I've got nothing profound to say about the Bulls at this point. I don't like the Celtics' chances, I know that much, but who knows what to say about the home team at this point other than they are very good but will need to be better to beat the Heat.
They are coming home, there is that, having completed a nine-game road trip with six wins. And they still have the best record in the Eastern Conference despite having played 20 of their first 30 games on the road - more than anyone else in the NBA so far. The Bulls' lead over the Heat is small but real (they are 23-7, while Miami is 21-7).
But it's all about the man's back isn't it?
And Derrick Rose could wake up today and find that those problems have dissipated just like that. Anyone who has ever had back spasms and soreness knows they hurt like the dickens for a while but they come and go seemingly on whim. Until Rose's health clears up we'll take a break from highly specific critical analysis of this squad in this space.
As for the Celtics, first Rajon Rondo drove the lane and kicked out passes to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce for three-pointers that stretched the Celtic lead to double-digits well into the fourth quarter on Sunday afternoon. Then he tossed in a pair of alley-oop passes to JaJuan Johnson and Chris Wilcox to stretch the lead even further. But there were the Bulls a few minutes later, in possession of the ball after another terrible Pierce turnover with a chance to pull even with a three-pointer.
C.J. Watson's long (jump) shot came up short and after a few more free throws were exchanged, the Celtics posted a 95-91 win. But they couldn't have taken too much confidence away from this one. Rondo finished with a ridiculous 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds and yet Boston still barely held on at the end.
And that really covers the rest of the competition in the East other than Miami. No one short off the Heat (yes, Indiana scored a big win over the Bulls a few weeks ago, but that was a fluke) is going to take any confidence into playoff match-ups with the Bulls barring a calamitous outcome for Rose's health. The Bulls still have three more games with their primary rivals this regular season (March 14 and April 12 at home, and April 19 away).
Meanwhile, there is no relief in sight for the Hawks. For some reason their Disney On Ice road trip (both the Bulls and the Hawks hit the road when the figure-skating extravaganza comes to town every year) extends for a week longer than the Bulls, meaning the home team still has three more games in a row on the road.
So the Hawks travel to Nashville to face their nemesis Predators on Tuesday and then take on the Rangers in New York and the Blue Jackets in Columbus later in the week. Their eight-game losing streak has set the team back, of course, but if they can just find a way to right the ship at some point soon, they'll still be in decent position.
In the often topsy-turvy world of NHL playoffs, after all, where top seeds seem to fall in the first round every year, a team just has to make it into the postseason to have a shot at the Cup.
And despite all the losses, as of Sunday evening the Hawks still stood tied for sixth in the Western Conference. They have 65 points, five ahead of ninth-place Calgary and Colorado.
But unlike the Bulls, they don't have the excuse of a star player out with an ailing back.
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