Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers grab last two spots in NBA playoffs
By Tim Reynolds | The Associated Press
Dwyane Wade is going back to the playoffs. The Miami Heat aren’t going with him.
The field for the NBA postseason is set, with Wade and the Chicago Bulls claiming one of the last two available spots on the final night of the regular season. The other went to the Indiana Pacers, who downed the Atlanta Hawks.
The Bulls and Pacers winning eliminated the Heat, who finished 41-41 after beating Washington. Miami was 11-30 in the first half of the season, then 30-11 in the second half of the season.
And Wade, in his first season with the Bulls, is going to the playoffs for the 12th time.
“Now the fun begins,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.
So now the matchups are set.
Boston wrapped up the No. 1 seed with a win over Milwaukee. The Celtics are the sixth different franchise to grab the No. 1 seed in the East in the past six seasons – Chicago did in 2012, followed by Miami, Indiana, Atlanta, Cleveland and now Boston.
The Celtics will meet the Bulls in Round 1.
Defending NBA champion Cleveland gets Indiana in the East first round, and they’ll play the first game of the postseason Saturday afternoon. Cavaliers star LeBron James has played in 51 first-round games in his career – and his teams in Cleveland and Miami are 44-7 in those contests.
Only two of the eight first-round matchups were undecided going into Wednesday.
In the Western Conference, No. 1 Golden State will open against No. 8 Portland, No. 2 San Antonio faces No. 7 Memphis, No. 3 Houston gets No. 6 Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz will meet in the last quarterfinal.
Home-court for the Clippers-Jazz series was the last remaining unknown part of the playoff schedule – and it went to the Clippers, who pulled away in the second half to beat Sacramento and lock up No. 4.
In the East, two series were determined before the final night. No. 3 Toronto will play No. 6 Milwaukee, and No. 4 Washington will meet No. 5 Atlanta.
The Indiana-Cleveland, Milwaukee-Toronto, Memphis-San Antonio and Utah-Clippers series will start Saturday. The Atlanta-Washington, Portland-Golden State, Chicago-Boston and Oklahoma City-Houston matchups begin Sunday.
MVP ballots are due to the league office on Friday, so the winner of the projected battle between Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Houston’s James Harden for that trophy will be decided before the Thunder-Rockets series starts.
However, the vote count won’t be known until the NBA hosts its inaugural awards show in New York on June 26.
The Spurs are in the playoffs for the 20th consecutive year, by far the longest active streak in the NBA. Atlanta is postseason-bound for the 10th straight season, followed by Memphis (7), the Clippers (6) and the Warriors and Rockets (5 each).
There’s only one rematch from last year’s opening round – that being the Spurs-Grizzlies series, which was also a 2 vs. 7 matchup a year ago. Both teams changed a bit since, with the Spurs no longer having the retired Tim Duncan and the Grizzlies being coached by former Miami assistant David Fizdale.
Detroit, Miami, Charlotte and Dallas made the playoffs last season, and didn’t qualify this season.