For one brief moment the Eastern Conference playoffs had a wildly different picture from today. Sure, Cleveland and Toronto were still in the same spots as last week, but two through eight was pandemonium. Charlotte had jumped up to three, Indiana almost fell out of the playoffs entirely, and Miami had fallen to six. However, by the end of the week things balanced themselves back out. This shows just how close these races among the East is, and how one win or loss can change the standings. The playoffs are in 11 days, and we still have no idea what the matchups are. Fans couldn't ask for a more exciting ending.
55-22, 0GB, key games: @IND, @CHI, ATL
The Cavs are in a spot where they should be able to cruise for the rest of the season. They've been sporadically resting players to finish out the season, and despite a lot of drama, they've looked pretty decent to finish out the year. There's a ton of questions about if they're going to be able to flip the switch for the playoffs, and if they can really compete for a title, but the answer to everything should be made obvious come May. Their upcoming schedule isn't the easiest in the world, with multiple playoff teams battling for position, but they should be able to win most of them.
51-25, 3.5GB, key games: CHA, @ATL, IND
The Raptors are in a similar place as Cleveland. They have the two spot pretty much locked up at this point and are just playing out the rest of the season in preparation for the playoffs. They have some tough games coming up, all against playoff teams, but their closing games are laughably easy. Toronto has a good chance to feel out some playoff level teams before taking it easy in their last three games.
45-32, 10GB, key games: TOR, BOS, @CLE
The Hawks are still playing great basketball, but they did lose control of the three spot for a short while before reclaiming it. They control their own destiny, but it won't be very easy with a tough finishing schedule against three very good teams in Boston, Toronto, and Cleveland. If Atlanta can manage to at least win two of those then their seeding should be safe. However, that Boston game is particularly important with potential tie breaker scenarios at risk. The Hawks should a tough first round team no matter who they face, but they would probably prefer to stay on the side of the bracket that doesn't have them facing LeBron James in the second round.
45-32, 10GB, key games: @ATL, CHA, MIA
The Celtics took a big tumble, but slowly they're pulling themselves back up. They've won six of their last eight and have a chance to force Atlanta into a tiebreaker before the season is up. However, unlike some of their peers, Boston's closing schedule is brutal. Their final three games all come against teams battling them for seeding purposes, and there's no clear favorite. Boston could 3-0, 0-3, 1-2 etc to finish the season and none of it would be surprising.
44-32, 10.5GB, key games: Everything
The Heat are in a weird spot. They have to decide if they would rather rest key players like Dwyane Wade and risk losses, gun for a certain spot in the bracket, or just let the season play out and see what they get. There's some tough games against playoff teams like Detroit, and then there's a chance to clinch a division tiebreaker with two straight games against the Orlando Magic. The most important game might be their last of the season with a road matchup at Boston. Really, every game is important for Miami at this point, because they all have implications of some point. What's more interesting about these last few games is how they choose to approach it rather than the actual results.
44-32, 10.5GB, key games: @TOR, @BOS
The Hornets, for a split second, had control over their own destiny. However, a loss to Cleveland sent them right back down to sixth. Funny what one loss can do, but it can't be helped. The Hornets are still one of the hottest teams in the league with a painfully easy schedule to finish the year. Every game, outside of the Raptors and Celtics, are against teams under .500. Depending on health, and how seriously Charlotte takes home court advantage in the first round, the Hornets have a chance to move back up to three. That Boston game will be interesting as it could have a major effect on seeding.
41-36, 14GB, key games: CLE, @TOR
Pacers...what in the world are you? After appearing to have the seven spot locked up, Indiana chose to go on a total nose dive with a bad performance against Chicago, and then an awful loss against the Orlando Magic. They really haven't looked like a playoff team, and with games against the Cavs and Raptors coming up they'll likely find themselves at eight by the end of the year. Possibly even out of the playoffs all together if they don't get their stuff together.
41-36, 14GB, key games: @MIA, MIA, @CLE
The only thing beating the Pistons right now is their schedule. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls with a tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks thrown in between. Unlike Indiana, the Piston actually look like a playoff team and an annoying one at that. They're not going to upset the Raptors or Cleveland, but those four to five games are not going to be easy.
39-38, 16GB, key games: @MIA, CLE
ZOMBIE BULLS RISE! ZOMBIE BULLS FEAST ON THE LIVING NBA TEAMS FOR SUBSTANCE AND PLAYOFF NUTRITION. You know that scene in the first Harry Potter where Voldemort has to drink unicorn blood to stay alive, and is only hanging on to life by a mere thread? Well that is the Bulls, and their thread is the Pacers. With games against Miami and Cleveland coming up the Bulls should probably not make the playoffs, but Indiana is unpredictable at this point. This team is ridiculously annoying. Nobody actually wants them to make the playoffs, possibly even themselves, and yet they won't go away.