The Chicago Bulls need just one win in the final four games to clinch the No. 1 seed in the East bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs after beating the Boston Celtics on Thursday. The Bulls (58-20) are four games ahead of the 54-24 Celtics and Miami Heat in the standings, but only own the tiebreaker over the Heat, meaning that Miami has no chance at No. 1. If Boston were to win out and Chicago lose out (highly, highly unlikely), the Celtics would have the conference record tiebreaker. The C's and Bulls split their season series 2-2.
In all likelihood, the Bulls will claim the No. 1 seed on Friday in a visit to the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers. That would guarantee a first-round series between the Bulls and Indiana Pacers, who earlier this week clinched the No. 8 seed in the East. The Pacers are just 36-43, some 22.5 games behind the Bulls in the standings. No series in recent memory -- not even Celtics-Hawks in 2008 or Cavs-Bulls last season -- featured such long odds.
A second-round series will be tougher, especially if the Orlando Magic can beat the Atlanta Hawks quickly. The Bulls won the season series 2-1, but Dwight Howard had some mammoth performances and the team has plenty of pressurized playoff experience.