The final stretch of the NBA season is upon us and a lot has happened since our last look at the playoff picture. More injuries, more losing and what looked like an insurmountable lead by the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot has been trimmed to just 1.5 games entering play on Sunday.
Here is a look at the up to the minute East Standings:
|1. Indiana Pacers||52||21||--|
|2. Miami Heat||50||22||1.5|
|3. Toronto Raptors||41||31||10.5|
|4. Chicago Bulls||40||32||11.5|
|5. Brooklyn Nets||38||33||13.0|
|6. Washington Wizards||38||35||14.0|
|7. Charlotte Bobcats||35||38||17.0|
|8. Atlanta Hawks||31||41||20.5|
|9. New York Knicks||30||43||22.0|
|10. Cleveland Cavaliers||29||45||23.5|
Atlanta enters Sunday with a 1.5 game lead over the Knicks but a full two game advantage in the loss column. The Knicks play Sunday night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors. The Hawks are back in action on Monday against Philadelphia.
Here is a look at Atlanta's remaining schedule:
|Mon Mar 31||vs Philadelphia||7:30||SportSouth|
|Wed Apr 2||vs Chicago||7:30||SportSouth|
|Fri Apr 4||vs Cleveland||7:30||SportSouth|
|Sun Apr 6||@ Indiana||6:00||SportSouth|
|Tues Apr 8||vs Detroit||7:30||SportSouth|
|Wed Apr 9||vs Boston||7:30||SportSouth|
|Fri Apr 11||@ Brooklyn||7:30||SportSouth|
|Sat Apr 12||vs Miami||7:30||SportSouth|
|Mon Apr 14||vs Charlotte||7:30||SportSouth|
|Wed Apr 16||@ Milwaukee||8:00||ESPN|
Not an easy stretch for any team especially one with the injury problems that are currently plaguing the Hawks. Atlanta's remaining stretch isn't as difficult as New York's but at this point, its a little difficult to see the Hawks finishing strong. Tanking conspiracists aside, its been an unbelievable year for injuries in Atlanta and this team is limping home in the most figurative way imaginable.
Here is a look at New York's remaining slate:
|Sun Mar 30||@ Golden State||9:00||League Pass|
|Mon Mar 31||@ Utah||9:00||League Pass|
|Wed Apr 2||vs Brooklyn||7:00||ESPN|
|Fri Apr 4||vs Washington||7:30||League Pass|
|Sun Apr 6||@ Miami||1:00||ABC|
|Fri Apr 11||@ Toronto||7:00||League Pass|
|Sun Apr 13||vs Chicago||7:30||League Pass|
|Tue Apr 15||@ Brooklyn||8:00||TNT|
|Wed Apr 16||vs Toronto||8:00||League Pass|
If New York makes the postseason then they will earn it. Eight of the Knicks' remaining nine games are against playoff teams and many of which are still battling for playoff positioning. The Knicks have the harder road for sure but at this point it almost feels like Atlanta may not ever win again.
Whoever comes out on top in this gets rewarded with a matchup against either the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat. Whether that is something to actually strive for is a topic that I am sure will be discussed at length all summer.