Eastern Conference playoff race: Bobcats fall behind, Raptors gain a little breathing room

Miami gained a little ground tonight on Indiana with a victory over Detroit. - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The East is clustered with tight races for highly-contested playoff spots. Friday's hefty slate of games featured many of the teams involved.

On a night in which 22 of the NBA's 30 teams went to work on the hardwood, seven of the Eastern Conference's teams currently seeded for postseason play saw action.

Prior to Friday's games, the East had a bunch of tight races from top to bottom. Indiana had three games on Miami separating them for the top spot in the conference; Toronto and Chicago had the same record in the chase for the third spot; 1.5 games stood between Brooklyn and Washington, who were No. 5 and 6, respectively; the Bobcats were 1.5 games back from Washington; and Atlanta brought up the rear 3.5 games behind Charlotte.

As time left before the season's end dwindles, pressure mounts and every mistake is magnified. With that in mind, of course there were significant wins and losses as it pertains to the East's standings Friday.

Race for the No. 1 seed

Indiana had a rough time against the Wizards, failing to score 80 points on 35.3 percent shooting. As you might imagine, the Pacers did not win.

Miami, on the other hand, thumped the Pistons by 32 points. The Heat held Detroit under 40 percent shooting, and LeBron dropped a triple-double.

With Indiana's loss and Miami's win, Miami moved to within two games of the Pacers.

Race for the No. 3 seed

Toronto clinched its first playoff spot in six years with a two-point win over Boston as the Bulls fell by double-digits at home to the Trail Blazers.

The Raptors' win put a little distance between them and the Bulls, who lost.

Race for the No. 5, 6 and 7 seeds

Brooklyn delivered an 11-point win at home over the Cavaliers Friday to maintain its lead as the fifth seed in the East. Washington put the hurt on Indiana for a big win, and the Bobcats fell to Orlando by 5 points in overtime.

Though the Nets and Wizards maintained their current separation, Charlotte lost ground the team can't really afford to give up at this point in the season. Charlotte is currently 2.5 games back of Washington, which isn't an unthinkably enormous gap to make up, but it's more than you ought to have after playing a bottom-dweller such as Orlando.

Atlanta did not play Friday, but because of the Bobcats' loss, the Hawks gained half a game on them.

Race for the No. 8 seed

As I write this, the Knicks game is not finished. But trust me, it's finished. New York is down about 30 points on the road with about 6 minutes left to play against the Suns. It's done.

With this loss, the Knickerbockers will be two games behind Atlanta.

And if you really like long shots, the Cavaliers are 3.5 games back of Atlanta after Cleveland's loss to Brooklyn.


With somewhere around 10 games left for every team before the regular season comes to a close, each game has more value and less margin for error as teams determine their seeding outcomes.

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