The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks are heating up at the wrong time for teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff ladder. Both have reeled off nice winning streaks in pursuit of the East's No. 2 spot, with the Pacers peeking out in front with a win Monday over the Clippers.
The Pacers led by as much as 24 over a team that had briefly contended for the Western Conference lead earlier in the season, and although Chris Paul's squad fought back to cut that lead to two points, Roy Hibbert's 26 points powered the Pacers to a fifth-straight win. They're now half a game up on New York, who have won eight of their own -- but face a pretty formidable opponent Tuesday night in the Miami Heat.
The two teams actually have something reasonably important to play for, as well: the second seed will likely play either the injured Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks, while the third seed will play either the Atlanta Hawks or Chicago Bulls, both of which seem to be less favorable matchups.
As for the Celtics and Bucks, they're getting closer and closer. The Bucks ransacked the Charlotte Bobcats, 131-102, Monday night, while the Celtics lost to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. They've now won just three of 10, and are just 1.5 games up with fewer than 10 games to go. The difference between their fates is big as well -- the eighth seed will have to face the Miami Heat.
Here's a look at the Eastern Conference standings:
|New York Knicks||72||46-26||.639|