...the Chicago Bulls. And it's all the Philadelphia 76ers' fault.
(Well, not really. With some better play last week, the Magic might still be in contention for the East's second seed. But that's neither here nor there at the moment.)
Tonight, the Sixers lost to the Boston Celtics, who were playing without two of their Hall-of-Famers, by a final score of 100-98. As such, the 76ers must defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow and hope the Bulls lose to the Toronto Raptors if they are to climb to the Eastern Conference's 6th seed and a first-round playoff matchup against the Magic. As a Magic fan, I'm rooting for this highly unlikely outcome because the Magic match-up much better against Philly than they do Chicago, although I understand Woody Wommack's concern about Philly's veteran-laden roster.
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The Magic should win their first-round series regardless of who they play, but they'd certainly have an easier go of it against the 76ers. Adjust your allegiances and TiVo accordingly.
UPDATE: the Bulls' official blog has reaction to this likely first-round pairing, complete with a reference to "Disneyworld," as if the deluge of Disney
propaganda photography during ESPN and ABC telecasts of Magic games weren't enough. Some excerpts give the overall gist:
So it looks pretty good for the Bulls to open the playoffs this weekend in Orlando, and I think that's the best chance for the Bulls to pull an upset.
I've been thinking all along the Bulls might have a shot at the Celtics--remember 2006 and the sweep of the defending champion Heat?--because of the continued absence of Kevin Garnett.
But it is a prideful, professional team. They are 14-7 without Garnett since February, and have won seven of the last eight without him.
As for the Magic, I think they are vulnerable.
They sound fragile, and their health seems little better. Hedo Turkoglu suffered a sprained ankle against the Nets and had to be helped off. He said he'll be ready for the playoffs. Rashard Lewis has complained of tendinitis and is shooting 41.3 percent in April and nine of 33 on threes his last four games.
A loss at home in one of the first two games could find a panicked Orlando team coming to Chicago, where the Bulls have been almost unbeatable for two months.
Teams get this sort of reputation when they blow 3 straight games to lottery-bound teams to end the year, with the potential to make it 4 straight losses on the final night of the season. I suppose the Bulls' assessment is fair enough, although it glosses over the Magic's 2 blowout wins over Chicago (example: "But that came right after the Bulls thrilling double overtime loss to Dwyane Wade's heroics and the Miami Heat. The Bulls had nothing left after that heartbreaker...") and instead focuses on the Bulls' improvements since they acquired John Salmons and Brad Miller at the trading deadline. Sure, absolutely acknowledge major personnel changes... but, um, scoreboard. Hello.