Not too long ago, it looked like the Atlanta Hawks had righted the ship after a 1-14 stretch had them in danger of falling out of the playoff race. But since a five-game winning streak, the Hawks have gone into another tailspin, and the possibility of missing the playoffs is as real as ever.
Atlanta has lost five straight games, with the latest being a 100-85 defeat at home against the Portland Trail Blazers. Kyle Korver's absence due to back spasms has coincided with the five-game losing streak, and the Hawks have clearly missed the sharpshooter.
With the loss, Atlanta is now just 1½ games ahead of the New York Knicks and three games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are two games better in the loss column than the Knicks and also hold the tiebreaker because of a better conference record, so they do have that going for them. However, that might not matter if Atlanta just keeps on losing.
No other East playoff teams played on Thursday, so there were no other changes. The Indiana Pacers remain three games ahead of the Miami Heat at the top of conference after a stirring victory on Wednesday. The Toronto Raptors hold the No. 3 seed, although the Chicago Bulls do have an identical 40-31 record.
Here's a full look at the East playoff race (y - clinched division):
|1. y - Indiana Pacers||52||20||-|
|2. y - Miami Heat||48||22||3|
|3. Toronto Raptors||40||31||11½|
|4. Chicago Bulls||40||31||11½|
|5. Brooklyn Nets||37||33||14|
|6. Washington Wizards||36||35||15½|
|7. Charlotte Bobcats||35||37||17|
|8. Atlanta Hawks||31||40||20½|
|9. New York Knicks||30||42||22|
|10. Cleveland Cavaliers||29||44||23½|
Over in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks suffered a tough loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Mavs led by 11 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Clippers stormed back and nabbed a 109-103 victory behind 31 points and nine assists from Chris Paul.
The loss dropped Dallas a half-game behind the Phoenix Suns for the final playoff spot in the West. The Memphis Grizzlies are just a half-game ahead of the Suns, while the Golden State Warriors are a game ahead of the Grizzlies in the sixth slot.
The aforementioned Blazers' win over the Hawks has Portland fans breathing a little sigh of relief, as a loss would have had them percentage points behind Golden State.
Both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder were idle, so the Spurs still hold a three-game lead on top of the conference. The Clippers' win has them two games behind the Thunder, and the Houston Rockets' demolition of the Philadelphia 76ers has the Rockets a game behind Los Angeles in the fourth spot.
Here's a closer look at the West playoff race (x - clinched playoff berth):
|1. x - San Antonio Spurs||55||16||-|
|2. x - Oklahoma City Thunder||52||19||3|
|3. Los Angeles Clippers||51||22||5|
|4. Houston Rockets||49||22||6|
|5. Portland Trail Blazers||46||27||10|
|6. Golden State Warriors||44||27||11|
|7. Memphis Grizzlies||43||28||12|
|8. Phoenix Suns||43||29||12½|
|9. Dallas Mavericks||43||30||13|