Bulls get last playoff spot, Texas rematch set
The Chicago Bulls are headed to the playoffs. The San Antonio
Spurs are headed right back to Dallas.
The last night of the NBA season gave Kevin Durant his first
scoring title, and finally sorted out the Western Conference
The Bulls secured the remaining playoff spot, beating Charlotte
98-89 Wednesday to set up a first-round series against LeBron James
and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Chicago finished a game ahead of
Toronto, which owned the tiebreaker and would have advanced if the
Chicago won its final three games, ignoring the distractions
created Tuesday when a Yahoo! Sports report surfaced that coach
Vinny Del Negro and Bulls vice president of basketball operations
John Paxson got into a physical altercation after a game last
“You know what I love about this team?” Chicago’s Joakim Noah
said. “I feel that even when times were hard, we went on a 10-game
losing streak, I feel like we never let down. We always believed in
each other. To be in this position right now is a great feeling,
and I feel it’s really deserving.”
The Mavericks’ 96-89 victory over the Spurs gave Dallas the No.
2 seed and dropped San Antonio to seventh, so the Texas rivals will
meet in the postseason for the second straight year. The Mavs
knocked off the Spurs last season.
San Antonio showed no fear of a third matchup in five years,
resting Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on Wednesday.
“If they’re looking for us,” Dallas center Brendan Haywood
said, “they’ll see us this weekend.”
Only two playoff matchups, one in each conference, had been
determined entering the final night of the regular season. The East
was settled after victories by Chicago and Miami, while the West
went even longer.
Phoenix earned the No. 3 spot with its 100-86 victory in Utah.
That gave the No. 4 seed and the Northwest Division title to
Denver, with the Jazz falling to fifth.
The Suns went 23-6 after the All-Star break and will face the
sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
“It was a great way to finish the regular season – for a team
that was picked by many to be on the outside looking into the
playoffs or at the bottom of the playoff list,” Suns guard Steve
Nash said. “To finish third in the West is rewarding. And most
importantly we’re playing well and heading into the playoffs fairly
Miami claimed the East’s No. 5 seed with a 94-86 double-overtime
victory over New Jersey and will oppose the Boston Celtics. Though
they’ve played poorly in the second half of the season, the Celtics
insist they are ready because their Big Three of Kevin Garnett,
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen is healthy.
“This is the healthiest we’ve been,” coach Doc Rivers said.
“I think this is the best Kevin’s been since early in the season.
I think Paul is feeling fantastic right now.”
Milwaukee is the sixth seed and plays No. 3 Atlanta. The Hawks
hung around the locker room after their 99-83 victory over
Cleveland to watch the end of Miami’s win. If the Heat lost,
Atlanta would have played Miami for the second straight year.
“Yeah, we were paying attention,” center Al Horford said.
Did it matter who you played?
“Not really. But now we have to start focusing on
The only West series that was already finalized before Wednesday
was the top-seeded and defending champion Los Angeles Lakers facing
playoff newcomer Oklahoma City and Durant, who at 21 years old
became the league’s youngest scoring champion.
“It’s going to be cool to go home and my friends say, ‘You were
the scoring champ at 21 years old.’ That’s a blessing,” Durant
said. “It’s something I can’t take for granted and I’ve just got
to continue to work from here.”
The playoffs begin Saturday with the Bulls visiting the
Cavaliers, who might be a little rusty after James sat the final
four games and chose not to bring Shaquille O’Neal back from a
thumb injury before the end of the regular season.
The Atlanta-Milwaukee and Boston-Miami series also begin
Saturday, as does Utah-Denver – after some late-night rescheduling.
That series was originally slated to open Sunday, but the NHL’s
Colorado Avalanche are scheduled for a home game that night, so the
Phoenix-Portland series took the Sunday night slot instead.