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NBA Winds Down Regular Season

The Chicago Bulls head into the final day of the NBA’s regular season schedule riding a two-game winning streak. If they make it three in a row on Wednesday night they’ll clinch the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Actually, the Bulls don’t even need to beat the Bobcats in Charlotte in Game 82 of their schedule on Wednesday night – if the fading Toronto Raptors fall at home against the New York Knicks the Bulls would lock up the eight seed as well. Chicago (40-41) moved a full game ahead of Toronto (39-42) in the standings with a 101-93 home win over Boston on Tuesday night as a 4.5-point favorite at Bovada.

The key to that win? The play of Derrick Rose. Rose poured in 39 points to go along with five rebounds and seven assists in Tuesday’s victory, while Kirk Hinrich chipped in with 30 points. Joakim Noah scored nine points in the win over the Celtics to go along with 16 rebounds. The Raptors hold the tiebreaker against the Bulls (2-1 head-to-head record), staying alive in the race with a 111-97 win in Detroit on Monday night as a 2.5-point underdog. Andrea Bargnani was good for 33 points in that contest. Of course, whoever finishes eighth in the East will get a date with the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Cavs close out their regular-season schedule on the road against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. The Hawks have locked up the No. 3 seed in the East. The Orlando Magic, locked in at No. 2 in the East, will host Philadelphia on Wednesday; they’ll play No. 7 Charlotte in the first round of the playoffs. The Boston Celtics are set at No. 4 in the conference but their Wednesday night opponents, the Milwaukee Bucks, will be jockeying with the Miami Heat for the No. 5 seed; the Heat will play host to the last-place Nets on Wednesday night. Over in the Western Conference things aren’t as orderly – although the Los Angeles Lakers have already locked up the top spot in the conference heading into their regular-season finale with the Clippers on Wednesday night.

Kobe Bryant will miss that game with a finger injury. The Lakers’ opponents in the first round will be the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder, who will tune up for the playoffs by playing host to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. The other six Western Conference spots, though, were still in flux heading into the late action on Tuesday night. Notable West matchups on Wednesday will include San Antonio at Dallas, Phoenix at Utah, and Golden State at Portland.