CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 14: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls rebounds against the Orlando Magic at the United Center on April 14, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
BULLS AT BOBCATS
The facts: 7 p.m., CSN, 1000-AM.
Updated: May 17, 2014 6:43AM
The Bulls are well aware that they had no business even contemplating a spot in the Eastern Conference finals a few months ago.
Not enough star power, a bit too gritty, and when it really came down to it, they just weren’t good enough in the win-loss column.
No, it was a table for two back then, and only the Heat and Pacers were having chairs pulled out for them.
“We all get it,’’ guard Kirk Hinrich said. “Indiana and Miami were having unbelievable years, and the rest of the East was really struggling.’’
“Were’’ is the key word.
The No. 1-seeded Pacers entered March 44-13 but have an 11-13 record since then.
Meanwhile, the back-to-back champion Heat, the No. 2 seed, was 41-14 going into March and 13-13 afterward.
That table for those two isn’t such a sure thing anymore.
“I don’t know if you want to read into that because that stuff can change quickly,’’ Hinrich said when asked if the struggles of the Pacers and Heat had been noticed. “Obviously, we want to be playing as well as we can, be healthy and have as much momentum as we can going in, but I’m excited because it’s getting close.
“Do we believe we can compete, excited for the playoffs, like our chances? Yeah.’’
The Bulls are 16-7 since March 1, so if there’s a record that merits attention, it’s their own.
“Yeah, I think we were caught up in trying to right our ship; I don’t think we were caught up in everyone assuming Miami and Indiana had clear paths to the [Eastern Conference] finals,’’ forward Mike Dunleavy said. “We were so worried about what we were trying to do. We were trying to get in the playoffs, then get home-court advantage, then trying to move up. I don’t think it was really something that crossed our minds more than anyone else.
“I think we take notice that we’re playing well, and that’s the biggest thing. Those two teams have dropped off record-wise, but some other teams have also played well. Maybe people are second-guessing that things are all set up for a showdown between those two, so we’ll see. That’s a long way away, and we have a lot of business to take care of.’’
Starting in Charlotte on Wednesday night. If the Bulls lose, they’ll be the fourth seed. If they win and the Raptors lose, they get the third seed. If Toronto and the Bulls finish in a tie, the Raptors have the tiebreaker.
The Bulls want that No. 3 seed because the road for the No. 4 seed might be a bit tougher. The fourth seed opens against the Nets, who have gone 17-7 since March and are a difficult matchup because of their three-guard attack.
“We already have it in our head that we’re going to Brooklyn,’’ backup big man Taj Gibson said. “We’re already focused on Brooklyn.’’
Gibson wouldn’t take the bait when asked about a second-round showdown with the Heat or Pacers and who would be a better matchup for the Bulls.
“You have to look at the team that’s right in front of you,’’ Gibson said. “It seems that any kind of little thing that a team can feed off of, they’ll use it against you, so we don’t want to give anybody any little kind of motivation, any kind of juice.’’