The chase after the final two spots in the Eastern conference continues to be the most exciting thing remaining in the NBA regular season, as the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers beat the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks respectively, helping themselves out, while the Brooklyn Nets losing to the Atlanta Hawks simply makes things more complicated.
The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets currently occupy the spots heading to the playoffs (7th and 8th), with a 36-42 record, a one game edge over the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, both at 35-43, one game behind and outside the playoff spots. The Charlotte Hornets are still alive in the race but three games behind the Nets and Celtics, things look quite difficult for them to overcome.
The Celtics beat the Detroit Pistons 113-103 to officially eliminate them from the postseason picture. It’ll be the sixth consecutive season in which the Pistons miss the playoffs, although the sense of disappointment isn’t strong as it was last season; overall, the feeling is that the Pistons made the right moves during the season to become better in the future and not wait for too long, even if it’s through dirty words and strong language from their head coach.
Isaiah Thomas did exactly what was expected of him with 34 points in his best game since joining the Celtics. Jae Crowder brought his usual blend of energy and defense to go with 17 points off the bench and Brandon Bass helped out with 16 points. Andre Drummond finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds; Reggie Jackson scored 21 points and 15 assists, but it didn’t help the Pistons stay in the playoff race.
The Pacers did what everyone does against the Knicks; win, and easily. George Hill led the way with 20 points and five more players scored in double figures. Roy Hibbert finally had a good game with an 11-11 double double, and the Pacers are going to need a lot more of that in the remaining four games if they’re going to make the playoffs.
The Hawks haven’t been doing too well lately, possibly because of the injury to Paul Millsap, also because of the law of averages (maybe they’re not as good as their record) and simply because they don’t have to win as badly as before, with no one to risk the top spot in the conference. The Nets had more riding on this game, but despite another big game from Brook Lopez (26 points), great games from Al Horford (24 points), Mike Scott (20 points) and DeMarre Carroll (19 points) was enough to complicate things at the bottom of the East.