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Bet on the NBAEveryone expected the Chicago Bulls to be better – much better – this year than they had been in the recent past, but no one expected them to be No. 1 in the Eastern Conference. But what about their two chief competitors in the East right now? The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat were predicted to lead the conference, but both are now playing for the second and third place going into the playoffs.

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Since the All-Star Break, both the Heat and the Celtics have experienced slumps that the Bulls have not. Boston had dropped seven of twelve games, while everyone remembers the Heat's five-game losing streak against some of the most solid teams in the league. Can either of these two teams really make it to the NBA Finals and compete?

It seems like one of the main problems for Boston has been a lack of passion in the past few weeks. Do their veterans have enough gas left in the tank to run through the postseason? If the Celtics take second place in the East, they could easily pass through the first round of the playoffs. But after that, they may have to face both the Heat and the Bulls just to get to the Finals. And for an aging team, that is a lot of minutes and a lot of challenges.

The Heat, on the other hand, are looking at facing a very tough, although erratic, Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. This team should scare any playoff contender, and a long series between either the Celtics or Heat and the 76ers could prove very trying. If the Heat have a tough time in the first round, the hype will be all about how Miami is overrated. And if the Heat begin to doubt themselves, lasting long enough to see the conference finals may be doubtful.

The main reason that is brought up for the possibility of the Bulls being eliminated in the playoffs is that they are still a young, untested team. In fact, this year will give them their first real expectations for success in a long, long time. They are likely to make it to the conference finals, but beyond that, their inexperience may be a liability if it comes down to playing the Lakers or the Spurs in the NBA Finals.


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