Bulls clinch top seed in East with win over Cavaliers.
Posted by Matt Moore
If it has seemed like Chicago fans count their chickens before they hatch, it's likely due in part to their belief in the sports equivalent of manifest destiny. After all, their franchise's championship years were forged by the fire of Jordan, which relied most heavily on self-assurance. "I win because I am." Derrick Rose has helped push that mindset back into function. He has been a force of nature, and has led the Bulls as a team and as a fanbase that they can and will win the championship simply because they will it to be so.
And now they've willed themselves to the No. 1 seed in the East.
The Bulls clinched the top spot in the East with a 93-82 win against the Cavaliers, a fitting illustration of where we've gone to in a year, as the team that won the top spot in last year's playoffs lost to clinch this year's beast in the East. The Bulls are now assured homecourt advantage, in a rocking United Center, throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. They are just a game back of San Antonio for homecourt advantage throughout the Finals. They hold a 3.5 game lead on the Lakers.
What does homecourt mean for Chicago? The Bulls lead the league in attendance per game this season. They have a big-market, high energy crowd in a building with history (and statues). Homecourt advantage means something entirely different for them than it does L.A., which suffers with traffic, distractions, and its fans being priced out. The United Center won't get as loud as Oklahoma City in the playoffs, but it'll be close. It's a hostile environment against a team that feeds on emotion and drive. For the Eastern powers to allow this was a severe mistake.
Still, the Bulls now have the target on their back. They now have to be considered favorites against the other East powers. They reached this mark by playing the underdog, but now they're the favorite. How they react to that will be of vital importance. This team as constructed has never seen a postseason together. How will they react as the favorites? And with a first-round series against the Pacers which likely won't really test them in any meaningful way, how will they respond in the second round when the intensity increases? Say what you want about the Magic (assuming they topple the Hawks), but they do know how to play high-octane playoff basketball.
But as always, it returns to Rose. As high energy as the United Center will be, Rose's calm, cool demeanor will set the tone and provide a rock for the team to rely on. They have experienced players like Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, and Kyle Korver who have seen the playoffs.
They have the star. They have the personnel. They have the coach.
And now they have homecourt advantage.
Beware the Bulls.