NBA playoff picture, East edition: 3 teams in tight battle for No. 4 seed

Stephen Dunn

The Hawks, Bulls and Nets find themselves in a fierce battle for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta is percentage points ahead of Chicago and Brooklyn.

The Atlanta Hawks lead the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets by mere percentage points in a fierce battle for the No. 4 slot in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks currently hold the fourth seed with a record of 33-25, but they have lost two in a row and will be in major danger of falling back to the sixth spot when they visit the Denver Nuggets on Monday night. The Bulls and Nets share identical 34-26 records, but Chicago would have the fifth seed if the playoffs started today due to the tiebreaker.

Thanks to their 14-game winning streak, the Miami Heat have opened up a 6½-game lead atop the East, so they should cruise to the No. 1 seed. But behind the Heat, the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks are locked in a serious fight for second. With the Pacers' victory over the Bulls and the Knicks' loss to the Heat on Sunday, Indiana moved one game ahead of New York in the standings.

At the tail end of the playoff picture, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks have little to worry about in terms of losing their spots in the postseason with the Philadelphia 76ers 6½ games out. But the Celtics and Bucks both are on winning streaks and could possibly make a run upward if one or more of the Hawks/Bulls/Nets trio falters.

Here are the full East standings:

Eastern Standings

Miami Heat 57 43-14 .754
Indiana Pacers 60 38-22 .633
New York Knicks 56 35-21 .625
Atlanta Hawks 58 33-25 .569
Chicago Bulls 60 34-26 .567
Brooklyn Nets 60 34-26 .567
Boston Celtics 58 31-27 .534
Milwaukee Bucks 57 29-28 .509
Philadelphia 76ers 58 23-35 .397
Toronto Raptors 60 23-37 .383
Detroit Pistons 62 23-39 .371
Cleveland Cavaliers 59 20-39 .339
Washington Wizards 58 19-39 .328
Orlando Magic 60 16-44 .267
Charlotte Bobcats 59 13-46 .220

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