NBA playoff picture: Pacers hold ground at No. 2, Celtics and Hawks have setbacks


While Miami runs away at the top of the East, the races for the rest of the playoff spots remain tight.

The Miami Heat have all but closed up shop atop the Eastern Conference standings thanks to their 25-game winning streak, but the rest of the playoff contenders in the East continue to battle for favorable position in the standings.

The Indiana Pacers won their third consecutive game, all without forward David West (lower back sprain), when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, 102-89. The Pacers remain in second place in the East but despite the trio of wins, Indian has been unable to extend their lead over the New York Knicks.

While battling through major injury woes, the Knicks have found a way to stay in touch with the Pacers and win their last three games as well. On Friday night, the Knicks took care of the Toronto Raptors with veteran forward Kenyon Martin starting at center.

The Brooklyn Nets currently hold fourth place in the East which comes with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Nets continue to hold off the inconsistent group behind them which includes the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics.

Both the Hawks and Celtics lost on Friday which put them another half game behind Brooklyn. The Hawks currently hold fifth place, two and half games behind the Nets, while the Celtics are in seventh place, a full three games behind Brooklyn and a half game behind sixth place Chicago.

Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago and Boston are all in action again on Saturday night while Atlanta sits idle. Among the key games will be a Central Division clash between the Pacers and Bulls at the United Center.

Eastern Standings

Miami Heat 68 54-14 .794
Indiana Pacers 69 43-26 .623
New York Knicks 67 41-26 .612
Brooklyn Nets 68 40-28 .588
Atlanta Hawks 69 38-31 .551
Chicago Bulls 67 36-31 .537
Boston Celtics 68 36-32 .529
Milwaukee Bucks 68 34-34 .500
Philadelphia 76ers 68 26-42 .382
Toronto Raptors 69 26-43 .377
Washington Wizards 68 25-43 .368
Detroit Pistons 70 23-47 .329
Cleveland Cavaliers 69 22-47 .319
Orlando Magic 70 18-52 .257
Charlotte Bobcats 68 16-52 .235

More from SB Nation:

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How the NBA can compete with NCAA's one-and-done stupidity

An open letter to NBA nerds at the start of March Madness

Derrick Rose: "I just know I'm close"

Andrew Sharp: LeBron is our MJ

The best NBA draft prospects of March Madness

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