Crunch time for teams making late push for NBA playoffs

Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:18pm EDT
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(Reuters) - The NBA's playoff picture has started to come into focus and there is precious little time for the few teams clinging to slim hopes of joining the postseason party.

Twelve of the 16 playoff berths are still technically up for grabs but with the regular season ending on April 16 that leaves many teams all but mathematically eliminated from contention.

The Eastern Conference's Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have officially secured their playoff berths while the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder have punched their tickets in the Western Conference.

While that leaves six remaining playoff spots in each conference, there are enough near certainties to drastically reduce the actual number of available playoff berths.

While not mathematically assured of making the playoffs, the East's Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats all appear to have built big enough cushions.

The East's Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are all mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

That leaves the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics, battling for the eighth and final spot in the East.

Atlanta is clinging to the eighth playoff seed, 2-1/2 games ahead of New York, but has lost five straight heading into Saturday's game versus Washington.

Both Atlanta and New York have 10 games remaining but the Knicks, 8-2 in their last 10, still must play nine teams that are currently above them in the standings while the Hawks play five teams with better records.   Continued...

Mar 24, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Tony Snell (20) is defended by Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) during the first half at the United Center. David Banks-USA TODAY Sports