Bulls forward Taj Gibson offered a reason for optimism following another ugly loss last night: Chicago is still in the Eastern Conference.
Translation: Thank God we’re not in the West, where it can sometimes take 50 wins to make the playoffs.
At 27-24, the Bulls are currently seventh in the East and are on pace to win 43 games this season. That number would have been good enough to make the playoffs in the East in each of the past 10 seasons, but just twice in the West during that same time span.
Whether that will hold true again this year is yet to be determined – Chicago would be seventh in the West right now too – but what is clear is that the West is far more intimidating at the top.
Three teams in the West – Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City – have a better winning percentage than any team in the East right now.
If the season ended today, Chicago would face Toronto in a first-round series. That’s a much more favorable matchup than in the West, where the No. 7 seed would face the playoff-proven Spurs.
Even Cleveland – the clear favorite in the East – isn’t unbeatable. Chicago took the Cavs to six games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last May and are 2-0 against them this season.
Compare that to Golden State – who has beaten Chicago twice by a combined 43 points this season.
The next three games will provide the Bulls another chance to measure up to the best teams in the East. Chicago will host Atlanta on Wednesday before playing back-to-back games against Cleveland and Toronto following the All-Star break.