With the Toronto Raptors' loss against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, the math for the Bulls is simple:
If they will all of their remaining five games, they are in the playoffs -- regardless of what the Raptors do the rest of the way.
But I doubt if the Bulls will have to win out to finish ahead of the sliding Raptors. If the Bulls can beat the Raptors Sunday in Toronto and win three of the other four games, they'll have 41 wins and I'm confident that will be enough to finish one game ahead of Toronto (which has the tiebreaker over the Bulls).
The Raptors have four games left and I don't see getting more than two wins. I think they'll lose Friday at Atlanta and Sunday to the Bulls. I'm thinking Toronto will find away to win its last two games -- Monday at Detroit and Wednesday vs. New York -- but that's far from a certainty with the way things have been going lately. That also assumes Chris Bosh -- who just had facial surgery to repair a fracture -- will be able to play in those games.
Of course, the Bulls haven't exactly been setting the world on fire of late, either, but I think they can summon a strong finish now that they are relatively healthy and they've had a little time to develop some rhythm.
The key for the Bulls could be tonight's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Beating the best team in the NBA will be a tall order, but I think they may get a little help from the Cavaliers, who already have wrapped up the league's best record.
LeBron James has talked about getting some rest in the last week of the regular season. James probably won't sit out or play limited minutes in the two remaining home games because of the home fans who bought tickets to see him, so that leaves tonight's game and the regular-season finale Wednesday at Atlanta.
I believe James will want to play in the last game so he'll be sharp for the start of the playoffs, so that leaves tonight's game. Even if he doesn't sit out completely, maybe his minutes will be greatly reduced. That may be the break the Bulls need.