The NBA regular-season is winding down and the post-season is right around the corner.
The Western Conference playoff picture is a free-for-all with only three teams clinching berths so far and four teams still fighting it out for the final three spots, while the Eastern Conference seedings are pretty much cemented except for the eighth and final spot, which is a three-team race between the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks.
The Knicks slid into the 8th spot Monday night with a blowout victory over the Nets, improving to a .434 win percentage while the Hawks are breathing down their neck with a .432 win percentage — both teams are tied in the standings but NY has played two more games than ATL and therefore has a slightly higher win percentage.
Atlanta was 8th going into Monday but a loss to the Bulls coupled with that New York win the same night erased their one-game cushion and forced a tie for the final spot.
The Cavaliers trail both teams in the standings by two games each.
Here is a break down of the remaining schedules for all three teams:
New York (33-43): 6 games left; 3 home & 3 away; all 6 are vs. playoff-bound teams.
Opponents: vs. Washington, at Miami, at Toronto, vs. Chicago, at Brooklyn, vs. Toronto
Atlanta (32-42): 8 games left; 5 home & 3 away; 4 are vs. playoff-bound teams.
Opponents: vs. Cleveland, at Indiana, vs. Detroit, vs. Boston, at Brooklyn, vs. Miami, vs. Charlotte, at Milwaukee
Cleveland (31-45): 6 games left; 4 home & 2 away; 2 are vs. playoff-bound teams.
Opponents: at Atlanta, vs. Charlotte, vs. Detroit, at Milwaukee, vs. Boston, vs. Brooklyn
As you can see, the Cavaliers have the easiest schedule remaining among the three teams, followed by the Hawks and lastly the Knicks with the toughest remaining schedule.
However, the Hawks are probably the most likely to make the playoffs since the Cavs are too far behind and the Knicks have too tough of a final stretch.
Tonight’s game against Atlanta and Cleveland is huge for all three squads vying for the final playoff spot, as it will either create a bigger gap in the standings with a Hawks win, or make the race for 8th even tighter with a Hawks loss.
Check back tonight around 11 p.m. (ET) for an updated post on the standings.