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updated: 4/17/2012 9:33 PM

For Bulls, No. 2 seed might not be so bad

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  • Center Joakim Noah wasn't happy with Monday's loss to the Wizards, but the Bulls are still sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference

      Center Joakim Noah wasn't happy with Monday's loss to the Wizards, but the Bulls are still sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference
    Associated Press

 
 

The biggest concern with Derrick Rose's latest injury is how it will cut into his prep time for the playoffs.

Rose experienced his third different malady in a little more than a week when he came out of Sunday's game at Detroit with a sore right foot. He was limping in the hallways at the United Center and sat out Monday's game against Washington, which the Bulls lost 87-84.

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This follows a sprained right ankle that cost him a game and a groin injury that kept him sidelined for 12 contests.

The Bulls haven't given many specifics about the latest injury but seem confident that it's nothing serious. Rose traveled with the team to Charlotte on Tuesday, but his status is questionable for Wednesday's date with the Bobcats, the NBA's worst team.

"I'm always concerned," coach Tom Thibodeau said of Rose's latest injury. "He's missed a lot of games."

Luol Deng also missed the Washington game with bruised ribs. His status is unknown for Wednesday.

With five games left in the regular season, the Bulls have a 2-game lead in the loss column over Miami for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Heat could tighten the race by beating the Bulls in South Florida on Thursday.

There might be a sense of urgency building over the need to beat out the Heat for the No. 1 seed and earn homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

If it happens, great, but the Bulls shouldn't sweat it too much. There could be hidden benefits to finishing No. 2 in the East.

First of all, history has shown that the No. 1 seed means very little. In the past nine years, only one team (Boston in 2008) that finished first in the East played in the NBA Finals.

A change at the top also would mix up the second-round playoff matchups. There's no guarantee the higher seeds will win in the first round, but if the Bulls drop, Miami could end up with tougher second-round duty against Boston.

Already this month, the Celtics have beaten the Heat twice.

This could continue to be a dangerous combination, because Boston's strengths match up with the holes in Miami's lineup -- Rajon Rondo at point guard against Mario Chalmers and Kevin Garnett against whoever happens to get the call at center. Then Paul Pierce can at least give LeBron James a defensive challenge.

Rondo had 18 points and 15 assists when these teams played in Miami on April 10, while Garnett also tends to make things tough on Chris Bosh.

The Bulls, on the other hand, seem to match up well against Boston, because they are strong at the same positions. A healthy Rose is rarely outplayed by Rondo, Joakim Noah loves to guard Garnett, and Deng has traditionally fared well against Pierce.

The downside to this scenario is the Bulls would face a No. 2 vs. No 3 second-round battle against Indiana. With their depth, size and physical play, the Pacers might be a scarier matchup for the Bulls.

This will all be settled soon. The regular season ends next Thursday. Whether the Bulls finish No. 1 or 2, getting healthy should be their primary concern.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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