2014 NBA playoff picture: Heat and Pacers battle atop fluid East

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

There are three close duels for seeding in the Eastern Conference, starting with Miami and Indiana jockeying for the top seed.

Just when it appeared that the Miami Heat could take control atop the Eastern Conference, the unexpected happened. Little-used forward Chris Copeland hit a game-winner for the Indiana Pacers, who dropped the lowly Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday while sitting their entire starting five. Later on, the Heat slipped in the fourth quarter as the desperate Memphis Grizzlies held them off, bumping Miami a half-game back of Indiana atop the standings.

A Friday night battle in South Beach could end the back-and-forth, swinging the top seed in the Eastern Conference to one team for good. The rest of the conference is far from determined as well.

The Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls are in a deadlock for the third and fourth seeds, and the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards are also tied up at 40-38 in the seventh and eighth spots. The latter is the case after the Wizards let a home game against Charlotte slip away in overtime, 94-88. At the bottom of the playoff standings, it appears the Atlanta Hawks will be able to hold off the New York Knicks with Carmelo Anthony and Co. having to do well in four remaining games, all of which are against top-five place Eastern Conference teams.

Eastern Conference Playoff Standings

Eastern Wins Losses PCT Games behind
1. Indiana 54 25 0.684 0.0
2. Miami 53 25 0.679 0.5
3. Toronto 46 32 0.590 7.5
4. Chicago 46 32 0.590 7.5
5. Brooklyn 43 35 0.551 10.5
6. Charlotte 40 38 0.513 13.5
7. Washington 40 38 0.513 13.5
8. Atlanta 35 43 0.449 18.5
9. New York 33 45 0.423 20.5

★★★

The Western Conference playoff picture might be stabilizing a bit more than it is out east. The second place Oklahoma City Thunder's victory against the Clippers on Wednesday put them three games back of the first-place San Antonio Spurs, and it gave them a 2.5 game buffer on Los Angeles. Going down the conference, Houston, Portland and Golden State are all 1.5-game apart from anyone above or below them, though the Warriors could pick up a whole game against the Blazers if they beat them on Sunday.

The Warriors are also only a game ahead of seventh-place Dallas, which doesn't want to find itself fighting for a playoff spot. The Mavericks sit just a half-game ahead of Phoenix with a crucial Saturday matchup against the Suns that will decide the tiebreaker between the two squads. And Phoenix is a game ahead of ninth-place Memphis, but doesn't have the tiebreaker and must host the Grizzlies on Monday.

Western Conference Playoff Standings

Western Wins Losses PCT Games behind
1. San Antonio 60 18 0.769 0.0
2. Oklahoma City 57 21 0.731 3.0
3. L.A. Clippers 55 24 0.696 5.5
4. Houston 52 26 0.667 8.0
5. Portland 51 28 0.646 9.5
6. Golden State 48 29 0.623 11.5
7. Dallas 48 31 0.608 12.5
8.Phoenix 47 31 0.603 13.0
9. Memphis 46 32 0.590 14.0

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