Bulls Heat TNT Thursday Preview

CHICAGO VISITS MIAMI THURSDAY ON TNT WITH PLAYOFF RAMIFICATIONS FOR BOTH

It's very easy to break down the most important part of the Eastern Conference Playoff picture right now. The Atlanta Hawks are going to be a #1 seed, and are obviously a dangerous threat to go the distance as "Spurs East" with their potent offense. The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be a #2 seed, and the presumptive market favorite because they've played at a championship level since getting their roster in order midseason. The "math" says it's going to be a two-team race.

But, the "math" doesn't know how to account for the return of Derrick Rose! The Chicago Bulls, who visit the Miami Heat Thursday night in a game you can watch on TNT, are in a fight for the 3-4-5 spots in the Eastern brackets. Right now...that 3-4-5 area (which also includes Toronto and Washington) seems fairly distant from "the big two." But, if Rose can approach anything near his form of the past...we may be looking at a "big three" that includes the Bulls in the championship discussion.

Chicago finishes with Miami, Philadelphia (home), Brooklyn (road), and Atlanta (home) as they try to get into synch for the postseason. They know they will miss Atlanta and Cleveland in the first round...but can't possibly miss one of them in the second round unless there's a miracle. Wherever the Bulls end up, they'd probably have to go through BOTH to reach the league championship.

Miami is in a fight for one of the bottom spots in the brackets. Though, "fight" may be too strong of a word because it's hard to tell if some of those teams even want to make the playoffs! What's the point of finishing #7 or #8 just to get embarrassed in the first round by Cleveland or Atlanta? Here were the standings heading into Wednesday night's busy schedule (we can't include Wednesday's results because of publication deadlines).

6...Milwaukee 38-39
7...Brooklyn 36-41
8...Boston 35-42
9...Miami 35-43
10...Indiana 34-43
11...Charlotte 33-44

With just a handful of games left to reach 82 for everyone...Milwaukee seems fairly safe to at least reach the postseason (games left with the lowly Knicks and Sixers should cinch it). They'll want that sixth seed too because it avoids the powers. That leaves everyone else jockeying to grab or miss the #7 and #8 seeds. Does Miami even WANT to make the playoffs? Hard to tell given their recent results. They're not playing like a team that's going to scare a power. And, the last thing they want is to lose to LeBron James and Cleveland in a one-sided opener.

Handicapping the final days of an NBA season is always tricky. This Eastern Conference quagmire may be the messiest challenge we've ever seen! JIM HURLEY will be working very closely with his sources, his scouts, and his statheads to determine which teams really care and which are trying to avoid winning. If you know what to look for in boxscores, that can really jump out. He'll only release plays to his clients that involve the utmost confidence of effort from the NETWORK pick, with at least the potential kicker of a no-show from the opponent.

Thursday's card will likely be a mix of basketball (the best option from the TNT doubleheader), and baseball (a lot of day games on the slate, so heads up!). We'll keep finding gems for you in these final days of the regular season. Then, a week from Saturday, LOOK OUT! The playoffs begin and we'll really be off and running with a dream stretch that also includes the Triple Crown horse races and great baseball.

You can always purchase daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours. Remember to take care of business early Thursday because of the daytime baseball action. Now's a great time to ask about extended packages that include all the upcoming sports calendar highlights.

We have some big baseball previews coming up in the next few days. We've already talked about pennant races in the AL West and NL West. Tomorrow brings a huge series in the AL Central involving the top market contenders. Then, next Monday, what some pundits think is a potential World Series preview of Eastern division favorites in the respective leagues with the Nationals and Red Sox.

Friday: MLB Series Preview...Detroit Tigers at the Cleveland Indians
Monday: MLB Series Preview...Washington Nationals at the Boston Red Sox
Wednesday April 15: NBA Season Finale "Must-Game" Preview (if applicable)
Friday April 17: NBA Playoff previews begin!

Some NBA teams may not be sure they want to win. JIM HURLEY knows he HAS to win to stay at the top of the handicapping industry. If you're with NETWORK, you're going to GET THE MONEY!

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