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posted: 4/6/2013 7:56 PM

Bulls' playoff scenario taking shape

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  • Nate Robinson has hit some big shots lately for the Bulls. "I'm not afraid to fail," Robinson said. "You're going to have to fail a lot to succeed in this game. For me, you can't be afraid to take that shot. You can't be afraid to miss it or make it."

      Nate Robinson has hit some big shots lately for the Bulls. "I'm not afraid to fail," Robinson said. "You're going to have to fail a lot to succeed in this game. For me, you can't be afraid to take that shot. You can't be afraid to miss it or make it."
    Associated Press

 

By Mike McGraw

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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Anything can happen when the Bulls' self-authored slogan is, "We can beat any team or lose to any team."

With the Bulls down to seven games left in the regular season, it's becoming more likely they will be the first visiting team to experience playoff basketball in Brooklyn.

As of Saturday morning, the Bulls sat in fifth place in the East, 1 game in the loss column behind the Nets and 2 losses ahead of the Atlanta Hawks.

Some people are starting to ask if the No. 4 or 5 seed is be best for the Bulls. If they dropped to No. 6, they'd have to play New York or more likely Indiana in the first round, but could avoid a potential second-round matchup with Miami.

Does it really matter?

Any team that wants to win the East will probably have to deal with the Heat sooner or later.

"We're not avoiding nobody," Nate Robinson said after Friday's game. "Wherever we fall, wherever we land, we're ready to play whoever it is."

The Bulls have reason to feel confident against any of the three likely first-round opponents. They're 3-1 this season against the Nets, 3-0 against the Knicks and 1-3 against the Pacers. But they were competitive in all 3 losses to Indiana, despite playing with depleted lineups.

So no reason to sweat the seed. If the Bulls have a chance to reach No. 4 and get homecourt advantage in the first round, that's the best scenario. They hold tiebreakers against both Brooklyn and Atlanta.

After the Hawks lost at home to Philadelphia on Friday, Atlanta coach Larry Drew lamented his team's habit of clicking into cruise control when the playoffs are close.

"'OK, we are going to coast until the regular season and we are going to turn it up once the playoffs start.' I told the team afterward that we are playing Russian roulette by doing that," Drew said. "I know the importance of momentum going into the postseason."

Credit Robinson with another save:

Nate Robinson added to his long list of game-changing events Friday against Orlando.

The Bulls got off to a slow start and were shooting poorly. In the second half, Robinson scored 15 points, while hitting 6 of 10 shots overall and 3 of 4 from 3-point land.

A night earlier, he hit the go-ahead basket in Brooklyn, a 10-foot floater in the lane with 22 seconds left.

"I'm not afraid to fail," Robinson said. "You're going to have to fail a lot to succeed in this game. For me, you can't be afraid to take that shot. You can't be afraid to miss it or make it."

Teammate Jimmy Butler reached deep to deliver a tribute to Robinson.

"Nate, he's key to this team, the offense he brings and the way he can completely shift the momentum of the game," Butler said. "I think that's a big part on any team and Nate's that for us."

The biggest complaint about Robinson is once he gets it going, he doesn't know when to stop shooting.

"Basically, it's get back on defense because he's shooting the ball no matter what," Butler said with a smile. "Don't let him make two in a row, because he'll come across center court and he's shooting it. You know that. That's Nate. When he's hot, he's hot. Everyone in the league knows that by now. We'll take that."

Mohammed extends his reach:

Veteran center Nazr Mohammed played 31 minutes against Orlando, the third time in four days he exceeded 30 minutes of court time.

Before this stretch, he had reached 30 minutes in a game just five times in the previous five seasons. He finished with 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.

"I am tired, but I'm happy we got the win," he said. "Every game at this point in the season is important."

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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