NBA playoff picture: Bulls fall into tie with Celtics, Nuggets take lead over Clippers


The Bulls and Nuggets shifted the playoff picture a bit in each conference last night. Here's what happened.

The Bulls and Nuggets are moving quickly in opposite directions, and their movements are changing the landscape of the playoff races in each conference. Denver racked up its 14th-straight win and pushed its home record to an impressive 31-3 thanks to an improbable comeback against the Sixers on Thursday night. The Bulls got pounded by the Trail Blazers and dropped their sixth game in the last eight tries, and Tom Thibodeau could barely stand to watch it happen.

In the West, the Nuggets (48-22) clinched a playoff spot and moved ahead of the L.A. Clippers (47-22) by virtue of winning percentage, but not by virtue of seeding -- Denver is still the No. 5 seed and the Clippers are No. 4 thanks to the divisional format. If the Nuggets finish with the better record and land in the fifth spot, they will still have home-court advantage, so the seeding is more of a formality at this point. Then again, Denver is closing in on the No. 3 spot currently held by the Grizzlies (46-21), which should make things very interesting down the stretch.

In the East, the Bulls have descended to sixth and are now tied with the No. 7 Celtics at 36-31. The Bucks are trying desperately to escape the eighth seed and a potential matchup with the Miami Heat, but the Bulls do hold an advantage in the secondary tiebreaker (conference record) that will likely mean the Bucks have to make up more than the two games in the standings. By the same token, the Bulls currently hold the secondary tiebreaker over the Celtics as well, thanks to a 26-13 record against Eastern Conference teams -- compared to 22-18 for the Celtics and 22-20 for the Bucks.

Western Standings

San Antonio Spurs 68 52-16 .765
Oklahoma City Thunder 69 50-19 .725
Memphis Grizzlies 67 46-21 .687
Los Angeles Clippers 69 47-22 .681
Denver Nuggets 70 48-22 .686
Golden State Warriors 70 39-31 .557
Houston Rockets 68 37-31 .544
Los Angeles Lakers 69 36-33 .522
Utah Jazz 68 34-34 .500
Dallas Mavericks 68 32-36 .471
Portland Trail Blazers 68 32-36 .471
Sacramento Kings 69 25-44 .362
Minnesota Timberwolves 66 23-43 .348
Phoenix Suns 69 23-46 .333
New Orleans Hornets 69 23-46 .333

Eastern Standings

Miami Heat 67 53-14 .791
Indiana Pacers 68 42-26 .618
New York Knicks 66 40-26 .606
Brooklyn Nets 68 40-28 .588
Atlanta Hawks 68 38-30 .559
Chicago Bulls 67 36-31 .537
Boston Celtics 67 36-31 .537
Milwaukee Bucks 67 34-33 .507
Philadelphia 76ers 68 26-42 .382
Toronto Raptors 68 26-42 .382
Washington Wizards 67 24-43 .358
Detroit Pistons 69 23-46 .333
Cleveland Cavaliers 68 22-46 .324
Orlando Magic 69 18-51 .261
Charlotte Bobcats 68 16-52 .235

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