The NBA regular-season is winding down and the playoffs are less than two weeks away.
The Western Conference playoff picture is still a bit of a free-for-all with only four teams clinching berths so far and three teams still fighting it out for the final two spots, while the Eastern Conference playoff picture is pretty much cemented except for the eighth and final spot, which is a two-team race between the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks.
Atlanta and New York were tied for the final spot entering Friday, but the Hawks managed to reclaim sole possession of the 8th seed later that night with a win over the Cavaliers combined with a Knicks loss to the 6th-seeded Wizards.
The Knickbockers didn’t do themselves any favors by following up Friday’s defeat with another loss Sunday afternoon at Miami.
Here is a break down of the remaining schedules for both teams:
Atlanta (33-42): 7 games left; 4 home & 3 away; 4 are vs. playoff-bound teams.
Opponents: at Indiana, vs. Detroit, vs. Boston, at Brooklyn, vs. Miami, vs. Charlotte, at Milwaukee
New York (33-45): 4 games left; 2 home & 2 away; all 4 are vs. playoff-bound teams.
Opponents: at Toronto, vs. Chicago, at Brooklyn, vs. Toronto
As you can see, the Hawks have a much easier schedule than the Knicks.
Atlanta is just about guaranteed to win the final playoff spot since New York just lost this afternoon at Miami. In fact, the Hawks’ playoff chances are almost a lock at 86.3 percent, according to John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds at ESPN.com.
The Hawks now lead the Knicks by 1.5 games in the standings.
Atlanta owns the tie-break over New York, so even if both teams somehow finish the season with the exact same record the Hawks would be awarded the eighth and final playoff spot.
Atlanta plays later this evening at Indiana. A win would mean they go up two games over New York; a loss means they go back down to a one-game edge. Tip-off is 6:00 p.m. (ET).
Check back tonight for an updated post on the race for eighth place.