In the Eastern conference, unlike the Superior West, there are fewer questioned to be answered regarding the final playoff picture in the 2012-2013 NBA season. The Miami Heat won’t lose the number one spot, probably ending up with the best record in the league. The questions remaining are about positional battles – Celtics & Bucks, Bulls & Hawks, Knicks & Pacers while the Brooklyn Nets look like the only team sure of where it’s going to end up.
Where is that? Fourth, with a 43-31 record, two games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks at fifth and 2.5 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls at sixth. While it’s not over yet, it’s hard to see both the Bulls and the Hawks getting enough momentum in the final games while it’s unlikely the Nets will suffer any sort of late-season collapse.
So what are the Bulls-Hawks fighting for? Not playing the Pacers/Knicks, with both teams probably preferring it to be New York to finish third, whoever is the one that ends up in the sixth spot. The Pacers might not have the superstar power and offensive potential the Knicks have with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, but they’re a better team, with the kind of defense and basketball that thrives in the postseason, not to mention Roy Hibbert suddenly becoming an offensive beast.
|1||c-Miami Heat *||58||16||.784||–||74|
|2||x-New York Knicks *||48||26||.649||10.0||74|
|3||x-Indiana Pacers *||48||27||.640||10.5||75|
When it comes down to who finishes second, it’s going to be very thing. The Pacers play the Knicks in New York on April 14, but also have games against the Thunder, at Washington, Cavs, Nets, at Boston and Philadelphia. The Knicks, besides that head-to-head at home against Indiana, play the Bucks, at OKC, Washington, at Chicago, at Cleveland, at Charlotte and the Hawks.
For the Bulls and the Hawks, it’s pretty much the same situation, with Chicago especially keen to meet the Knicks if they do end up at third and they at sixth, knowing they have a much better matchup with the Atlantic division champions. The Bulls have nine games remaining – at Brooklyn, Detroit, Toronto, Miami and Orlando, plus four home games vs the Magic, Raptors, Knicks and Wizards. The Hawks? Home against Philly, Milwaukee and Toronto; away to the Spurs, 76ers and the Knicks.
While there is no competition to make the playoffs left, the Bucks do not want to end up playing the Miami Heat, who’d rather have the Bucks finish 8th than the Boston Celtics, while the C’s would love to continue giving certain players a bit more rest before the beginning of the postseason. The Bucks probably won’t make it, having a brutal schedule with six road games out of their remaining 8 (at Miami, OKC, Knicks, Orlando, Atlanta & Charlotte).