BULLS' YOUTH AND DESIRE WILL WIN TOP SEEDBy Nick Friedell
The Chicago Bulls have the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs because of their youth.
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has already said he won't push his veterans over their minutes limit down the stretch in the regular season just to pick up a better seed.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has no such worries. He has a team full of youthful, hungry players who desperately want the No. 1 seed to ensure a home game in a potential Game 7 against the Celtics.
Out of their final 13 regular-season contests, the Bulls have only five more games against teams with winning records, including the April 7 showdown against the Celtics. They have one game against a New York Knicks team that seems to be fading fast and six more against sub-.500 teams such as the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The one thing that might trip up the Bulls is that they have three more sets of back-to-backs in the final three weeks. But Thibodeau has proved he can prepare his team well for those games -- the Bulls are 13-5 in the second night of a back-to-back this season.
The Bulls don't have the Celtics' playoff experience, and that might come back to bite them if these teams square off down the line.
But the Bulls have an easier path to the top seed. And they know if they secure it, the reality of playing at United Center may make up for some of the deficiencies that every young team must deal with in the playoffs.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.
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FOCUSED CELTICS WON'T LET HOME COURT SLIP AWAY THIS TIMEBy Chris Forsberg
From the very moment the Boston Celtics walked off the confetti-strewn court at Staples Center, where the rival Los Angeles Lakers were celebrating a second consecutive world title last June, coach Doc Rivers and his charges told anyone who would listen how different the ending would have been had Game 7 of the NBA Finals been played in Boston.
Clinging to the top seed in the Eastern Conference -- locked in a tie with the Chicago Bulls -- with less than a month remaining in the regular season, the Celtics didn't come this far to let regular-season positioning affect their postseason potential.
While the Bulls certainly have the easier remaining schedule and will have the luxury of a head-to-head matchup against Boston at the United Center on April 7, it's hard to imagine it won't be the Celtics leaning on past experiences -- both good and bad -- to emerge as the East's top seed.
The Celtics need to put on blinders, and ignore what the Bulls and Heat are accomplishing (except, of course, during those head-to-head battles in the season's final days). Boston ought to assume Chicago will go 12-0 (hey, it's won nine of its past 10) and be happy if the Bulls trip up along the way.
Boston must figure out how to avoid stumbles of its own, particularly on the second night of back-to-backs on the road, where the team has suffered eight of its 19 losses this season (and nearly a ninth before rallying from a 15-point deficit versus New Orleans on Saturday). Boston plays 10 of its 12 remaining games as part of five back-to-backs, four of which close on the road. That's a daunting proposition, but we all know what the Celtics are capable of when the chips are on the table.
Boston might be kicking itself for taking its foot off the gas pedal at times during the regular season (what team isn't this season?). Now it's in a dogfight with Chicago, and if that means having to lean on a playoff rotation and rally from 15-point deficits in consecutive games (versus New Orleans and New York) to prevent losing ground, then so be it.
Boston will lean on its veterans and find a way to emerge with the top seed in the Eastern Conference, allowing itself no excuses for not getting back to the Finals this year for a chance to atone for letting Banner 18 slip away nine months ago.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.
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