The NBA regular-season is winding down and the playoff picture is starting to look a bit clearer.
The Western Conference’s last two playoff spots are still up for grabs among Dallas, Phoenix and Memphis, while the Eastern Conference is practically already set, as the Hawks are pulling away from the Knicks for eighth and final the seed.
New York was in 8th place coming into Friday with a slightly higher win percentage over Atlanta in the standings (.002 higher), but the Hawks reclaimed possession of the 8th seed later that night with a win over the Cavaliers combined with a Knicks loss to the 6th-seeded Wizards.
Those outcomes gave Atlanta a one-game edge in the standings.
Now it’s just about guaranteed Atlanta will make the playoffs, as they currently have a 97.7 percent likelihood of making the post-season, according to John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds at ESPN.com.
The Hawks own the tie-break over the Knicks, so even if both teams somehow finish the season with the exact same record, Atlanta would be awarded the eighth and final playoff spot.
New York has four games remaining, while the Hawks have six games left.
Here is a break down of the remaining schedules for both teams:
Atlanta (34-42): 6 games left; 4 home & 2 away; 3 are vs. playoff-bound teams.
Opponents: 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.
All Atlanta has to do to clinch a playoff berth is win three games down the stretch.
New York can’t finish better than 37-45 — which would mean they win each of their last four games — so since the Hawks own the tie-breaker, they just have to reach 37 wins to fully guarantee a playoff appearance.
Atlanta has back-to-back home games on Tuesday and Wednesday, while the Knicks are off until Friday.
Check back after the Hawks’ game on Tuesday for an updated look at the standings.