Time running out for teams clinging to playoff hopes

Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:26pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Just nine of the 16 playoff spots in the National Basketball Association (NBA) remain up for grabs after the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors secured their places in the postseason over the weekend.

The Raptors and Bulls joined the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoffs while the Clippers followed the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder into the Western Conference postseason.

Another two Eastern playoff teams could be decided later on Monday. The idle Brooklyn Nets could clinch if the New York Knicks lost to the Utah Jazz while the Washington Wizards could join the playoffs with either a win over the Charlotte Bobcats or a Knicks loss.

The Boston Celtics may find themselves officially out of the race with a loss to Chicago coupled with a win by either the Atlanta Hawks or Knicks.

The Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern conference.

While not mathematically assured of making the playoffs, the Bobcats, 4-1/2 games ahead of the ninth-seeded Knicks, appear to have a big enough cushion before the regular season ends on April 16.

That left the Hawks, one game up on the Knicks for the final East playoff spot despite losing six straight games, in a tight battle that included the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Celtics.

The Raptors will be appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 while the Bulls extended their postseason run to six seasons.

In the West, the Clippers shrugged off an injury to All-Star forward Blake Griffin to defeat the Houston Rockets and clinch a franchise-record third consecutive playoff appearance.   Continued...

 
Mar 23, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) passes to forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) during the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports - RTR3IA3C