Objects in the Mirror ...
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NOT MILWAUKEE, April 6, 2007 -- It's become crazy near the top of the Central Division these days.

It's getting chippy. It has become strident. The race for the division crown is close.

And that's good. Unfortunately, of the division's top three teams -- Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland -- they only have one game total against each other as the Pistons host the now fifth-seeded Cavaliers. That would be this Sunday at 1 p.m. on ABC.

What, wait? The Cavs, the fifth seed? Haven't they been No. 2 in the division and the East for the longest time?

Yes, but obviously not long enough because with the Cavs' loss to the Heat on Thursday, Cleveland slipped to the No. 5 spot where, if the season ended today, the Cavs would face the Heat in the First Round. Think they want the Heat, who took the season series 3-1, or whatever desultory team -- New Jersey, Orlando and possibly Washington with Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler toast because of injuries -- finishes as the seventh seed?

(The Heat has eyes on catching Toronto, too. The Raptors are game ahead of the Heat in the conference standings. If the Heat and Raptors finish with the same record, the Heat get the third seed based on the Heat taking the season series from the Raptors 2-1 and by virtue new playoffs seeding structure.)

If you think the Cavs' drop from No. 2 to the fifth seed happened overnight, it didn't. The Bulls have been no further back than three games since March 17 when the Bulls fell to Memphis and the Cavs topped the Jazz. The Bulls have chipped away at the Cavs' No. 2 spot for three weeks now, getting as close as a half-game out on games through March 29, April 1 and April 4.

Why it seems like an overnight thing is that many -- myself included -- cast their eyes toward the Cleveland catching Detroit angle, while the Bulls have treated their post All-Star schedule like the bulls treat fools in Pamplona. Chicago has gone 16-6 since the All-Star break, the best such mark in the East. In that stretch, they've split with Detroit and Cleveland with no contest decided by more than eight points, a win by the Bulls over the Cavs on Feb. 22.

But the Bulls are feeling good, as evidenced by Sam Smith's article in the Chicago Tribune from April 4. He quotes Bulls coach Scott Skiles:

"We beat them three times [out of four] this year, and in the [loss] we were up 16 in the third quarter." Skiles said Wednesday night after the Bulls pummeled the Detroit Pistons 106-88 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. "The guys have played well against them."

I would say winning three of four from the best team in the East is playing well against them. That, and the Bulls did it on Wednesday without Ben Wallace, who was sidelined with a sinus infection, which is a huge leap for the Bulls to make.

Then again, as I noted in my Cavs piece a few weeks ago, we may need to issue mea culpas (for now) for giving John Paxson the bidness for not bringing in a Pau Gasol or a Kevin Garnett at the trade deadline. Why? Because Tyrus Thomas has been playing quite well as of late and is showing that an energetic inside presence on offense would help the Bulls.

Now, we're not saying TT is KG's or Pau's equal, but it goes to show that a guy who can clean up after misses on the offensive glass and the guy who can find open spaces (or fly into the space above the rim) would help the Bulls with their stretch run. Still, Skiles told Smith he isn't convinced that Thomas is the answer:

" In a playoff series, though, 'I'm sure they would make adjustments and give us a lot more problems,' he said."

Granted, that's a coach's job: to worry about what could go wrong and plan to make it right. Still, it must make Skiles and Paxson smirk knowing that Thomas has played well as of late. Then again, who would you rather have in the paint in the postseason: a rookie such as Thomas or one of the aforementioned All-Stars?

Regardless, the Bulls have played exceptionally well lately and it's putting the pressure on the Cavs. To the Cavs' credit, they took the great Satchel Paige's advice, and hadn't been looking back. But maybe they should have. Something was gaining on them.

Still, Cavs fans are optimistic (or at least The Optimist is). As I noted earlier, a win Sunday against the Pistons would do a lot for the Cavs' confidence because after Sunday, all the Cavs and Bulls can do is take care of their business ... and watch the scoreboard.


Sorry about unleashing my inner Johnny Mac, but I had to ... in the headline at least. I had planned to fully respond to this article by Mike Freeman on cbs.sportsline.com about how Florida could beat -- he would guarantee -- three NBA teams right now, including my beloved Bucks. Mark Cuban responded to Freeman by e-mail and was quoted: "The best college team of the last 10 years would lose by 50 to any team at the bottom of the NBA."

I couldn't agree more. As for my response? Well, I could go into how, using college rules, a 19-foot, nine-inch three-pointer would be a layup for guys like Paul Pierce or Michael Redd. I could go on about how an NBA team with an extra 11 seconds on a shot clock would pick apart any college defense or, using NBA rules, how a college team couldn't play the 2-3 zone Florida played against Ohio State or how they wouldn't be pulling up for threes off the pick-and-roll from 23-feet, nine-inches as Florida did. Or how an NBA team would have so much video on Florida they would know how to exploit every weakness from superstar down to the kid in a suit who carries out those stools and water bottles for every timeout.

Yet I won't. But I will quote a response I received from an NBA scout when I asked him to comment on the claim that Florida could beat an NBA team: "Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Snort! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ha-ahhhhhhhh. Sigh."

The first gale of laughter lasted for about 20 seconds. The whole thing went on for about a minute. I thought that was appropriate.

Thoughts? Complaints? E-mail us. Also, you can listen to Rob Peterson on NBA Radio, Sirius 127 every Monday at 7:30 a.m. ET, and every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.