NBA Playoff Picture: Atlanta Hawks maintain 3.5 game lead over Knicks

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

A four team race is quickly turning into a two team affair as the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks continue to battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference

After losing 14 of 15, the Atlanta Hawks have won three straight games and maintain a 3.5 game lead over the New York Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have won six straight but are five back in the loss column. Here is a look at the standings entering Sunday:

Team W L GB
6. Brooklyn Nets 33 31 15.0
7. Charlotte Bobcats 32 34 17.0
8. Atlanta Hawks 29 35 19.0
9. New York Knicks 27 40 22.5
10. Cleveland Cavaliers 26 40 23.0
11. Detroit Pistons 25 41 25.0

The Cavaliers have quietly won two straight and are four back in the standings and also five back in the loss column. Detroit appears to be free falling after dropping two straight and eight of their last 10. The Pistons blew a 25 point lead on Saturday in a loss to the Pacers.

When teams go through a streak like the Hawks did losing 14 of 15 then its hard to seriously critique a three-game winning streak. However, the Hawks haven't looked stellar in any of the three games and saw a 21 point lead evaporate in the second half against the Nuggets. They will need to get straightened out quickly as the schedule starts to pick up beginning on Monday. Here is a look at Atlanta's next five games:

Date Opponent Time TV
Mon, March 17 @ Charlotte 7:00 p.m. SportSouth
Tues, March 18 vs Toronto 7:30 p.m. SportSouth
Fri, March 21 vs New Orleans 7:30 p.m. SportSouth
Sun, March 23 @ Toronto 1:00 p.m. SportSouth
Mon, March 24 vs Phoenix 7:30 p.m. SportSouth

With 18 games remaining there is still plenty of time for the Hawks to fall out of the race or improve their positioning. They are two back of Charlotte for seventh and four back of Brooklyn entering Sunday. They will play the Bobcats on Monday and third place Toronto twice over the next seven days.

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