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Bulls’ Playoff Seeding Scenarios

Joakim Noah, left, and Jimmy Butler. (Getty Images)

Joakim Noah, left, and Jimmy Butler. (Getty Images)

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(CBS) The Bulls’ season finale against the Bobcats in Charlotte tonight has plenty of postseason implications, as do three more games in the East: Nets-Cavaliers, Raptors-Knicks and Wizards-Celtics. Here’s the playoff scenarios still in play in the East, courtesy of NBA.com.

Toronto will be seeded:
• #3 if Raptors win OR Bulls lose
• #4 if Raptors lose and Bulls win

Chicago will be seeded:
• #3 if Bulls win and Raptors lose
• #4 if Bulls lose OR Raptors win

Brooklyn will be seeded:
• #5 if Nets win OR Wizards lose
• #6 if Nets lose and Wizards win

Washington will be seeded:
• #5 if Wizards win and Nets lose
• #6 if Nets win and Wizards win OR Wizards lose and Bobcats lose
• #7 if Wizards lose and Bobcats win

Charlotte will be seeded:
• #6 if Bobcats win and Wizards lose
• #7 if Bobcats lose OR Wizards win

What we do know is that the Chicago’s first-round matchup will be against either Washington or Brooklyn (a 3-6 matchup between the Bulls and Bobcats can’t happen because both need to win to achieve those seeds, and they play each other tonight).

We also know the Pacers have clinched the East’s top seed, while the Heat will be the second seed.

Now, here’s what’s intriguing. Because Indiana has struggled mightily down the stretch, there’s certainly some game theory in play here tonight for the Bulls and others. Those grabbing the fourth and fifth seeds (in Chicago’s case, the fourth seed) would potentially have a more favorable second-round matchup with the Pacers and delay a series against the more vaunted Heat, but an argument can also be made for the Bulls that earning the third seed would be more favorable if the Nets land the fifth seed, as many consider Brooklyn a really tough out in the playoffs.

The Bulls won’t say it, but a dream scenario would involve them closing out the season strong with a win against the Bobcats, the Raptors also winning to clinch the third seed, then the Wizards winning and the Nets losing to vault Washington into the fifth seed. If that’s the case, the Bulls and Wizards would play in the 4-5 matchup, with the winner likely getting the Pacers in the second round.

Also, that would put the Heat on course to face the Nets in the second round. Brooklyn swept the season series from Miami.