NBA playoff picture: Pacers bounce ahead of Knicks, Bucks battling Celtics for No. 7 seed

USA TODAY Sports

The Pacers and Knicks are both on big win streaks and are locked in a fight for the second seed, while the Celtics can't secure their seventh spot with the Milwaukee Bucks knocking.

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:


Eastern Standings

GP W-L PCT
Miami Heat 73 58-15 .795
Indiana Pacers 75 48-27 .640
New York Knicks 72 46-26 .639
Brooklyn Nets 73 42-31 .575
Atlanta Hawks 75 42-33 .560
Chicago Bulls 72 40-32 .556
Boston Celtics 74 38-36 .514
Milwaukee Bucks 73 36-37 .493
Philadelphia 76ers 73 30-43 .411
Washington Wizards 73 27-46 .370
Toronto Raptors 74 27-47 .365
Detroit Pistons 75 25-50 .333
Cleveland Cavaliers 73 22-51 .301
Orlando Magic 75 19-56 .253
Charlotte Bobcats 74 17-57 .230

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