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NBA Playoff Picture: Celtics Earn Cushion, Mavericks Slipping

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A busy Saturday in the NBA had plenty of repercussions on the NBA playoff race. From the Atlantic race to the battle at the bottom of the West, we break it all down below the jump.

Let's start with the Atlantic Division race. Both the Celtics and Sixers were going up against potential playoff rivals, with Boston drawing Indiana and Philly getting Orlando. The Pacers had been hot, the Magic cold. This was a chance for the Sixers to make up ground, right? <buzzer sound> The Celtics crushed the Pacers and the Magic broke their skid against the Sixers. That gives Boston a full two-game lead over Philly in the Atlantic race. The Knicks didn't play, and now sit three games behind the Celtics.

The Knicks have something more immediate to worry about: Milwaukee won again (its fourth straight) to move within a half-game of New York for the No. 8 seed. Philadelphia should also be worried, as the Bucks trail the Sixers by just 1.5 games.

The Pacers lost while the Magic and Hawks won. The seeding remains the same, but Indiana's cushion at No. 3 is now just a half-game over Atlanta and a full game over Orlando. The Pacers still have 2.5 games on the Celtics, who will have trouble moving out of the No. 4 seed.

The Bulls and Heat were inactive, so Chicago maintains its three-game lead for the No. 1 seed. Here's what the East bracket looks like after Saturday's action. You'll notice there have been no changes.

Bulls (1) vs. Knicks (8)
Heat (2) vs. Sixers (7)
Pacers (3) vs. Magic (6)
Celtics (4) vs. Hawks (5)*

* Hawks would have home court advantage due to a better record.

The West had some upending results. The Thunder and Spurs were inactive, so they remain virtually tied atop the conference. But the Lakers got blown out by the Suns (ah, old times) and the Clippers beat up the Kings (literally, in some cases), so the Clips are now within a half-game of the Lakers for No. 3. Remember, however, that the Lakers have the head-to-head tiebreaker, so the Clips need to finish ahead of them in the end.

The Grizzlies picked up another strong win over Dallas, and Memphis now has a two-game cushion in the No. 5 spot. In addition, the Mavericks are now in a virtual tie with Houston for No. 6 -- the Rockets are currently up by percentage points. Teams in that mid-range definitely want to avoid the Spurs or Thunder in the first round. The Mavericks now line up against the Thunder. Yikes!

Denver got blown out by the Warriors (?!), so the Nuggets sit behind Houston and Dallas, and have a one-game lead over the Jazz (idle) and Suns.

Here's the West bracket:

Spurs (1) vs. Nuggets (8)
Thunder (2) vs. Mavericks (7)
Lakers (3) vs. Rockets (6)
Clippers (4) vs. Grizzlies (5)