NBA Standings: Hawks, Knicks battle for final playoff spot

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA season shifts into the final stretch and the Atlanta Hawks' see their lead for the eighth and final playoff spot slowly slipping away.

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:

Team W L GB
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.

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