Play of Thomas and Rondo critical in Celtics-Bulls series

If the Bulls beat the Nets, they would clinch a playoff spot.

And they did, in runaway fashion, 112-73. Not that IN will be a favorite IN any series this postseason, but assuming the Cavaliers hold on to first place, IN is better off facing the Celtics than the Cavaliers by any sane logic. At evening's end, all three had won.

Jeff Teague added 19 points and 7 assists before twisting his left ankle and leaving the game in the fourth quarter as the Pacers grabbed the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference on the final day of the 2016-17 regular season.

"Now the fun begins", Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. But as much as coach Kenny Atkinson understood the ire of Heat fans, he said his responsibility is to Brooklyn - and the Nets (20-62) needed to keep their stars healthy and get their youngsters evaluated. Chicago claimed the eighth and final seed in the East and will meet the mighty Celtics in the first round.

Players will be resting throughout the league, but mostly on teams preparing for the playoffs, which is understandable. The Nets didn't get that memo.

In the final game of the season, the Nets made a decision to rest Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker, while Quincy Acy, Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris sat out due to injury.

Atkinson was quite sketchy in explaining the weird move. "Really. That's it in a vacuum", he said during his pregame chat with media. "But we have to look at it from the Nets franchise and what's best for us". They talk about the national television games, how important that is for the brand. It's a huge offseason for us. "It's a great opportunity for them, a great playoff-type atmosphere".

At 40-41, Miami has a chance to make history regardless of the playoff situation. "That's what's exciting about this race but I'm not talking about anybody else but our team and what we have to do tonight". I can see that smug look on Gar's face right now. I think next year we're going to make a lot of strides, especially going into the summer. "I don't know. It's interesting. There's a reason there's 15 men on a roster". Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook will become the 16th player in National Basketball Association history to win two scoring titles, Houston's James Harden will lead the league in assists for the first time and Miami's Hassan Whiteside should be able to wrap up his first rebounding crown. "At the owners' meeting and different competition meetings that take place this summer, that'll be right at the top of the list".

Hoiberg was asked if this affects the integrity of the game.

"Obviously, I completely understand they can be upset about it", Nets center Brook Lopez said.

"As a competitor I understand it". The C's started that game on a 13-0 run, holding Chicago scoreless for the first six minutes of the tilt.

In other words, the Bulls have their work cut out for them.

  • Julie Sanders