The Indiana Pacers beat the Boston Celtics on Monday, adding an improbable gold star to their otherwise regrettable record. The Charlotte Bobcats did that -- beat the Celtics, that is -- a few days ago, and followed it up with wins over the Knicks and, on Monday, the Bucks. The Pacers are now 33-42, and the Bobcats are 31-42 -- that's right, the two teams fighting for the East's final spot in the NBA Playoffs are a combined 20 games under .500. The least they can do is give us a dramatic race, right?
The Pacers effectively lead by one game, though the contenders are tied in the loss column, which means that the Bobcats could catch up without relying on Indiana losses. But the Pacers have a tiebreaker on Charlotte -- Indiana went 4-0 against the Bobcats this season -- so the 'Cats do need to finish a game ahead of Indiana to get the spot.
Three of Indiana's remaining seven games come against teams currently over .500; another game comes against the Knicks, who could be better than .500 by then. The Bobcats have four games against playoff teams (two against Orlando, one each against Miami and Atlanta) and five against poorer squads. Because of the Pacers' lead in the win column and tiebreaker, Basketball-Reference.com's excellent forecast tool gives Indiana an 83 percent likelihood of winning the spot.
The Bucks are all but dead after the loss to Charlotte on Monday. B-Ref begs their chances at less than 3 percent.