NBA playoff picture: Hawks, Bulls move ahead of Celtics

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The idle Boston Celtics dropped a half game in the Eastern Conference standings as Chicago and Atlanta both won on Friday night.

Three Eastern Conference playoff contenders went into Friday night with identical 35-29 records as they continued to tussle for spots five through seven in the standings.

The Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls both took care of business on the court while the Boston Celtics had to sit and watch as they dropped a half game behind them both. Atlanta welcomed Josh Smith back after the dynamic forward missed the previous game with a knee injury. Smith scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to push the Hawks past the Phoenix Suns, 107-94.

Chicago shook off losses in the first two games of their current West Coast road trip to post a strong win over the Golden State Warriors, 113-95. The Bulls return home for their next game, a tough match-up against the Denver Nuggets. The Bulls continue to fight through injuries with a return by Derrick Rose still on hold and key contributors Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson also missing extended time.

Boston has a good chance to quickly make up that half game on Saturday night when they host the Charlotte Bobcats in advance of a big Monday match-up with the Miami Heat.

Eastern Standings

Miami Heat 64 50-14 .781
Indiana Pacers 65 40-25 .615
New York Knicks 63 38-25 .603
Brooklyn Nets 65 38-27 .585
Chicago Bulls 65 36-29 .554
Atlanta Hawks 65 36-29 .554
Boston Celtics 64 35-29 .547
Milwaukee Bucks 64 32-32 .500
Toronto Raptors 66 26-40 .394
Philadelphia 76ers 64 24-40 .375
Washington Wizards 64 22-42 .344
Detroit Pistons 67 23-44 .343
Cleveland Cavaliers 65 22-43 .338
Orlando Magic 66 18-48 .273
Charlotte Bobcats 65 14-51 .215

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