By Shawn Muller–
Be honest with yourself when you think about the question I am about to ask you.
When the Chicago Bulls struck out on “The Big 3” of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh last July in the free agency market, and were left with signing players like Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer, you didn’t think for one minute the Bulls would be leading the Eastern Conference with just 12 games remaining, did you?
I know I didn’t. I will admit it.
But here they are: after the absence of Carlos Boozer for the first month of the season, after Joakim Noah missed almost three full months, the Bulls are leading the Boston Celtics by one full game in the standings and just a couple of weeks left in the regular season.
So which team has the advantage heading down the stretch?
After a little bit of number crunching, and pulling my inner stat-geek out of hibernation, I have come to the conclusion that the Chicago Bulls do. And it is not even close.
Let’s take a look inside the numbers, shall we?
Combined team winning percentage of opponents: Advantage Bulls.
The Combined winning percentage of the Bulls remaining opponents is .435, whereas the Celtics combined opponents winning percentage is .476. Sure, either team can lay a stinker down the stretch–and possibly will–but you have to feel comfortable with the Bulls chances of getting the number one seed based off of these numbers.
Home Games vs. Road Games: Advantage Bulls.
Chicago has 6 games remaining at home and six games left on the road. Meanwhile, the Celtics have 5 games left at home and 7 games on the road. Why is this important? Well, considering the Bulls hold a one game lead over Boston, and have one less road game than the Celtics, I would say that is actually a very big deal.
Couple that with the fact that Chicago has the best home record in the Eastern Conference at 31-4 and just the fourth best road record, playing more games at home than the Celtics–even if it is just one game–could make all the difference in the world.
Quite simply…the more games at home for the Bulls…the better (and there is your Captain Obvious statement of the day).
Combined Road Opponents Win Percentage: Advantage Bulls
While the Bulls have been OK on the road–with a record of 20-15–they can take solace in the fact that the last 6 road games are against opponents with a combined winning percentage of just .385. The two toughest road games for the Bulls are on the back end of the schedule when they travel to Orlando and New York. Other than those two games, the toughest roadie on paper is this Saturday, when the team plays the Buck in Milwaukee.
The Celtics, on the other hand, have a brutal road schedule to close out the season. While Boston does have the second best road record in the East—at 21-13—the final stretch does the Celtics no favors. In the teams’ final seven road contests, the Celtics opponents have a combined winning percentage of .529—including four straight starting on Sunday. If that wasn’t bad enough for the Celtics, five of the seven games are against playoff teams, including games @ Chicago, @ San Antonio, @ Atlanta, and @ Miami.
Home Games: Advantage Bulls
Going strictly on strength of schedule, one would have to say the Boston Celtics have the most favorable home schedule, with a combined opponent winning percentage of .402.
But I am not going to do that. Why? I am not trying to be a “homer” here, but like I said earlier, the Bulls have the best home record in the Eastern Conference. And it is not like Chicago faces a murderers-row at home down the stretch either. The combined winning percentage of the Bulls home opponents to close out the season is a very manageable .486, with the toughest games coming against the Celtics, and the Memphis Grizzlies.
If you are a Bulls fan, don’t you want your toughest remaining opponents at the United Center? 31-4 at home says you do.
Now don’t you feel a little better about getting the one seed Bulls fans? You should.
The numbers don’t lie.
Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.
Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.