The Atlanta Hawks continued to impress on Friday night, crushing the Cleveland Cavaliers, 117-98, and further pushing the Cavs out of the playoff picture as second-year forward Mike Scott scored 26 points off the bench.
Atlanta's win puts them in sole possession of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. New York dropped a heartbreaker to the Wizards, 90-89, as Bradley Beal came up big for Washington. The smooth-stroking shooting guard hit a jumper over Tyson Chandler with 6.9 seconds left to give the WIzards the win, dropping the Knicks below the fold.
Drive & Kick
Cleveland can use the Knicks' loss to their advantage, but losing to the team they are trying to overcome in the Hawks hasn't done them any favors. They are three games out of eighth place with just five games remaining on their schedule.
The Hawks and Knicks don't play each other to finish the season, so it will be a test of who can outlast their Eastern Conference opponents down the stretch as things tighten on the final spot.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors beat the Indiana Pacers at the Air Canada Centre, but Miami's double-overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves negated any effect that may have had on the battle for No. 1 in the East. The Pacers and Heat play on Apr. 11 and that may just decide who ends up in the top spot.
Here are the standings in the East:
|1. y - Miami Heat||52||22||-|
|2. y - Indiana Pacers||53||23||-|
|3. x - Toronto Raptors||43||32||8½|
|4. x - Chicago Bulls||43||32||8½|
|5. x - Brooklyn Nets||40||34||11|
|6. x - Washington Wizards||39||36||12½|
|7. Charlotte Bobcats||37||38||14½|
|8. Atlanta Hawks||33||43||19|
|9. New York Knicks||32||42||20|
|10. Cleveland Cavaliers||31||45||22|
In the West, the Trail Blazers had a slip up against one of this season's toughest rivals in the Phoenix Suns. Portland played their guests tough until the fourth quarter, when the Suns exploded for 30 points and held the Blazers to just 13. Phoenix dominated the foul line in the final period and Gerald Green dropped 32 points off the bench as they made Portland wait to clinch a playoff spot for another day.
Even with their win, Phoenix couldn't aide themselves in breaking up the muck that is the bottom of the Western Conference playoff standings. The Mavericks and Warriors took care of business on Friday night, beating the Lakers and Kings, respectively.
Houston beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, further solidifying their spot in the No. 4 seed. They are almost certain to face the Blazers in the first round, unless Golden State were to catch Portland from behind.
Here are the standings in the West:
|1. y - San Antonio Spurs||59||17||-|
|2. x - Oklahoma City Thunder||55||20||3½|
|3. y - Los Angeles Clippers||54||23||5½|
|4. Houston Rockets||50||25||8½|
|5. Portland Trail Blazers||49||28||10½|
|6. Golden State Warriors||47||29||12|
|7. Dallas Mavericks||46||31||13½|
|8. Memphis Grizzlies||45||31||14|
|9. Phoenix Suns||45||31||14|