The Eastern Conference race for 8th

Eastern Conference Standings
via ESPN.com

The final stretch before the playoffs is upon us where every win matters, not that they didn’t matter before, but each win and loss at this point are held at a high magnitude. In the Eastern Conference, there’s a close race for the 8th seed between the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, and the Washington Wizards. 

Stan Van Gundy
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Pistons have a record of 34-34 but their inconsistent play has caused great frustration, especially with their head coach, Stan Van Gundy. Following their recent slaughter of a loss to the Wizards, Van Gundy wasn’t a man of much words but what he said explained it all:

“We got our ass kicked at both ends.”

The Pistons have made changes to their roster, so adjustments are still being made but that’s no excuse for their defense to be lackadaisical and that’s where Stan sees the problem. 

“…if we want a chance to make this run and play in the playoffs, our defensive focus and commitment has to rise. And if we don’t, we’ll be going home.”

chicago-bulls
Reuters/Jeff Hanish – USA Today Sports

Chicago finds themselves with the 8th seed after beating the Brooklyn Nets last night. Injuries have plagued them all season and their suffering a significant one now with Pau Gasol out with a knee injury.  Every key piece of their team has missed a portion of the season and that has damaged their record. Their season has been quite the roller coaster but that was a bit expected with all the team chemistry issues coming into the season. The Bulls just haven’t been able to get it together this season and Jimmy Butler believes it’s a lack of toughness. 

“We’re not the tougher team. All the way down this roster, we’re not the tougher team and it show, from the jump ball to the end,” Butler said. “There’s a loose ball, we’re not getting it. If there’s a rebound people have to fight for, we’re not getting it. We’re just not the tougher team, and I think it shows a lot of the time. We have a lot of guys that have a lot of potential to play hard; we just forget how hard have we have to play sometimes – a lot of the times, actually.”

Although Chicago faces a lot of issues going forward, their chances aren’t over. They must turn things around or else this will be the first time they will miss the playoffs in the Derrick Rose era.

Nerlens Noel, Luc Mbah a Moute, Isaiah Canaan, John Wall
 (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

John Wall and the Washington Wizards seem to be getting things rolling down this final stretch. Their lack of success has caught many by surprised, but due to consistent injuries to Bradley Beal and inconsistent play overall, they find themselves gasping for life looking to make the playoffs. One thing in their favor is the tie breaker that they own against both the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons. They hold a 2-1 record over the Bulls with no more games to play and a 3-0 record over Detroit with one more game to play. That sounds all nice and dandy but things don’t get much easier for the Wizards. With not much room for error, they have a big 6-game west coast road trip coming up that features the Warriors and the Clippers. In addition to that, they also have to play the Atlanta Hawks three more times who have been hot in their past three games. Things are not getting easier for the Washington Wizards and with such a tough schedule ahead of them, they will have to clinch and fight to get a hold of the 8th seed. 


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