While the Indiana Pacers hold off the Heat atop the Eastern Conference standings, a more interesting battle rages more than 10 games back of second-place Miami. The Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards are the three other teams that can call themselves winners, and in that trio, the best at the end of the season will end up having a much easier time in the first round of the playoffs. The other two — the No. 4 and 5 seeds — will be battling one another.
Tom Thibodeau's Bulls seemingly know that, and in winning nine of their last 10 games have tied the record of the Toronto Raptors. Chicago dropped Dallas on Friday and blew past the Knicks on Sunday, and if momentum continues going the Bulls way, they will eventually win the third seed. That seems mighty important in making it an easier path to the second round.
The Wizards are fifth in the East and two games back of the Bulls and Raptors, but they helped keep the three-team grouping close by dropping Toronto in triple-overtime on Thursday. Toronto rebounded with an impressive win against Golden State this weekend, and Washington followed the win against the Raps with a victory against lowly Philadelphia, its sixth win in a row.
Another grouping of Brooklyn, Charlotte and Atlanta is having its own battle to finish off the eight playoff spots, while the Cleveland Cavaliers remain 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot currently held by the Hawks.
Eastern Conference Standings
|Team||Record||Winning PCT||Games behind|
The teams at the back end of the Western Conference appear too far behind to catch the third-place Blazers, fourth-place Clippers and fifth-place Rockets. While that deal in the heart of the playoff race behind the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder and second-place San Antonio Spurs has itself to sort out, it's that back end that could be the most fun to watch.
Over the weekend, the Dallas Mavericks lost a half-game lead on the Golden State Warriors and a two-game lead on the Phoenix Suns. Rick Carlisle's squad dropped from sixth to eighth with tough losses to Chicago and San Antonio. Golden State beat the Knicks but fell to the Raptors, and Phoenix ended a three-game skid with victories against the New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks.
All that discussion forgets the Memphis Grizzlies, who couldn't top the Thunder on Friday but rebounded against the Cavaliers Saturday to find themselves 1.5 games back of Dallas.
Western Conference Standings