NBA Playoff Picture: Nets, Hawks win as East race remains in question

USA TODAY Sports

Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets picked up a big on Wednesday to help solidify their status as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks pushed back to get even with the Chicago Bulls.

Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson combined to score 70 points on Wednesday night as the Brooklyn Nets knocked off the Boston Celtics and moved three-and-a-half games ahead of the idle Bulls for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. With only five games left on Chicago's schedule, Brooklyn is a pretty safe bet to capture home court in the first round.

In any case, the Bulls have bigger problems right now. Aside from the Derrick Rose saga, Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks earned a win over the hapless Sixers on Wednesday to pull within percentage points of Chicago for the No. 5 spot. The Bulls own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Atlanta, so all they need to do is keep pace at this point.

The race at the bottom of the bracket isn't very interesting any more. The Celtics lost to the Nets, but the Bucks failed to gain any ground. Milwaukee lost to the Magic in overtime, so Boston still holds a three-game lead for the No. 7 seed.

W L PCT GB STRK L10
1 z - Miami 62 16 .795 - Won 4 8-2
2 y - New York 51 26 .662 10 ½ Won 13 10-0
3 y - Indiana 49 29 .628 13 Won 1 7-3
4 x - Brooklyn 46 32 .590 16 Won 3 6-4
5 x - Chicago 42 35 .545 19 ½ Lost 2 6-4
6 x - Atlanta 43 36 .544 19 ½ Won 1 5-5
7 x - Boston 40 38 .513 22 Lost 1 4-6
8 x - Milwaukee 37 41 .474 25 Lost 2 3-7
Philadelphia 31 47 .397 31 Lost 3 5-5
Toronto 30 48 .385 32 Won 1 4-6
Washington 29 50 .367 33 ½ Lost 3 4-6
Detroit 27 52 .342 35 ½ Won 2 4-6
Cleveland 24 54 .308 38 Lost 2 2-8
Orlando 20 59 .253 42 ½ Won 1 2-8
Charlotte 18 60 .231 44 Lost 3 2-8

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