NBA playoff picture: Bucks miss opportunity to climb away from No. 8

USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks dropped an important game to the Hawks on Wednesday night, while LeBron James and the Heat cemented their status as the runaway team in the Eastern Conference.

The Miami Heat extended their winning streak to 24 games and cemented their status as the best team in the conference on Wednesday night, which is something that should scare the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat are now any combination of four wins or four Pacers losses away from clinching the top seed in the playoff bracket, and the Bucks are in line to be the first team to take them on in the postseason. Milwaukee squandered a chance to escape that fate by losing to the Hawks Wednesday night.

By dropping the first two meetings against Atlanta this season, the Bucks now must hope to take the final two head-to-head matchups to push the tiebreaker to conference record to have a legitimate chance of catching the Hawks. At the moment, the Bulls and Celtics are separated by 1.5 games in the six and seven slots while the Hawks are one game ahead of the Bulls in the No. 5 slot.

The Bucks may be better off trying to catch the Celtics at this point, because they do hold the head-to-head tiebreaker in that matchup. The Pacers and Knicks aren't pushovers at No. 2 and No. 3, but the Heat are so far and away the best at No. 1 that the goal for all of the teams in the lower half of the bracket should be to avoid Miami.

Brew Hoop has provided a breakdown of the current standings, remaining schedules and relevant tiebreakers for the Eastern Conference race:

Standings3

Schedule3

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