For the first time this century, making the playoffs is harder in the East

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 05: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets fouls Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 5, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Rockets 108-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Aside from the 2004-05 Cleveland Cavaliers (42-40), each and everyone of the Eastern Conference teams that finished the regular season with a positive record this century made the playoffs. Meanwhile in the Western Conference, winning teams often ended up on the outside looking in, like the 2013-14 Suns and the 2008-09 Warriors, both with a 58.5 percent winning percentage.

It’s going to be very different this year with either the Jazz or Rockets advancing to the West playoffs without a positive record and Chicago (and perhaps Washington) going on vacation without a negative one in the East. If they beat the Sixers in their regular season finale, the Bulls would actually finish with a winning record (42-40).

One thing is for certain: The No. 8 team in the Eastern Conference will have a better record than its Western counterpart for the first time since 1998-99. The Eastern Conference is not the Leastern Conference anymore.

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