The Bulls moved into the No. 3 spot in the East on Tuesday when Toronto lost at Cleveland. They're down to 11 games remaining in the regular season.
So is this a good spot for the Bulls to finish?
• Well, they'd like to get home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which means staying in the top four. Then again, they did win Game 7 on the road last year against Brooklyn. So it's not a prerequisite.
• Maybe the Bulls would be better off playing the Nets (currently the 5 seed) again, based on past success. Brooklyn has been the hottest team in the East the second half of the season, though, and it's tough to tell how those Nets veterans will respond to the playoffs -- especially Kevin Garnett, who has been resting for most of the regular season.
• If the postseason began Wednesday, the Bulls would play Washington in the first round. Besides being a rematch of the memorable 2005 Gilbert Arenas-owned series, the Bulls would have an edge in experience. The Wizards' two top scorers, John Wall and Bradley Beal, will be playoff first-timers.
But the Bulls have had problems with Washington in recent years, going 4-5 over the past three seasons. That may not be a great matchup, especially if Nene returns from a knee injury.
• Considering how Indiana has been slumping (5-7 in the last 12) and its players are complaining about selfishness, maybe the Pacers would be the best second-round matchup.
But Indiana (currently No. 1) and Miami could end up flipping spots. And it probably doesn't matter, anyway. The Bulls would almost certainly need to beat both to get out of the East and that's a decided long shot, no matter if Dwyane Wade's knees are sore or Roy Hibbert doesn't grab another rebound for the next three weeks.
In other words, the Bulls are planning to play out the season and whatever happens, happens.
"You just take it one day at a time, focus on your progress," Joakim Noah said. "I think you should focus your mindset on that; it just puts less pressure on you. Just focus on your craft, getting better, lifting weights, cool tub -- all the things you can control. Then see what happens."
The Bulls have a chance to catch their breath this week with three days off before hosting Portland on Friday.
"We always were humble about everything we do," Taj Gibson said Wednesday at the Berto Center. "You always know around the corner there's another test. Somebody might smack you right back into reality."
After playing the Trail Blazers (45-27), the Bulls' schedule eases up. Only one of their last 10 opponents currently owns a winning record and that's Washington at 36-34 heading into Wednesday's action.
None of the teams vying with the Bulls for playoff position has a particularly tough schedule. The final seeds will probably come down to how many times teams come up short against inferior teams.
The Bulls have a series of road games left that could go awry if they're not sharp, against Boston, Atlanta, Washington, Minnesota, New York and Charlotte.
The Bulls had a chance to officially clinch a playoff berth if the Knicks lost at Sacramento late Wednesday. Gibson was asked if he'd like to celebrate making the playoffs with a champagne-spraying celebration, the way it's done in baseball.
"I wish we could do that, but we can't. I don't think Thibs would let us do it anyway," Gibson joked. "In baseball, they play so many different games. At the end of the year, you deserve that.
"Basketball, once you clinch, it's another step you've got to focus on right away. Teams in this league are always hungry, no matter what, and we understand that. We just want to keep pushing."