The Indiana Pacers are a step closer to clinching a bid for the East bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs after a win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and a Charlotte Bobcats loss to the Orlando Magic. The Pacers lead the Bobcats by two games in standings with five games remaining; Charlotte has seven games left. Indiana has just one fewer loss than the Bobcats, though, so there's still pressure to win.
Indiana's magic number is four -- they need four combined wins and Bobcats' losses to claim the No. 8 seed. Four of Indiana's five remaining games come against playoff teams, and two of those -- the Hornets (Sunday) and Knicks (April 10) are currently playing for seeding. Another playoff opponent, the Hawks, haven't had anything but momentum to play for in a week or so, yet they have managed to beat the Magic and Celtics in the last few days.
The Bobcats saw their winning streak vanish in Orlando on Friday. Since losing badly at home against the Pacers on March 23, the 'Cats responded by beating the Celtics, Knicks, Bucks and Cavaliers -- all in close games. But Dwight Howard overwhelmed Charlotte on Friday, and the Bobcats lost a game to Indiana. Three of Charlotte's seven remaining games come against playoff teams, with games against the Magic and Heat on tap this week. Losses in both of those matches would make it extremely unlikely the Bobcats could catch Indiana.