Morning Wrap: A down-to-the-wire playoff race
BOSTON -- It’s starting to look like it’ll be another photo finish for the Celtics when it comes to their playoff seeding.
Hours after leap-frogging Cleveland for the best record in the East, the C's find themselves back in the No. 2 spot following a 103-100 loss to Milwaukee.
Boston (48-27) is one-half game behind the Cavs (47-26) for the best record in the East.
With seven games remaining and a much more favorable schedule than Cleveland, the Celtics are still well-positioned to wind up as the top seed in the East this season. But the players and coaches know nothing can be taken for granted, especially when you see how jumbled things are in terms of potential playoff seedings.
And that means the Celtics are still a little ways off from starting to hone in one or two potential first-round foes.
Here’s a morning wrap on the seven potential first-round foes Boston might see when the playoffs begin next month.
ATLANTA (39-36) FIFTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
The good news is that the Hawks have won their last two games. But when you see that the wins came over Philadelphia and Phoenix, two teams that are out of the playoff picture, you realize Atlanta fans have nothing to rejoice over other than the fact that the Hawks won. Paul Millsap (left) remains out because of a knee injury, with his return not coming until, at the earliest, Sunday in Brooklyn. Look for the Hawks to slide another spot or two in the standings are all set and done, which could set up a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff series between Boston and Atlanta. UP NEXT: Saturday at Chicago.
MILWAUKEE (39-36) SIXTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
The Bucks continue to be the team no one wants to play this time of year, not with them reeling off 13 wins in their last 16 games(including a 103-100 win at Boston on Wednesday). I know Philly’s Dario Saric and Joel Embiid are the odds-on favorites for the Rookie of the Year award. But folks should give some love to Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon (left), who made many clutch plays in knocking off the Celtics. The rookie had 16 points and 9 assists. UP NEXT: Friday vs Detroit.
MIAMI (37-38) SEVENTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
It’s pretty amazing how far the Heat have come after a horrendous 11-30 start to be where they are now. They’re starting to do what playoff-caliber teams do this time of year, which is when the games you’re supposed to. Miami has won its last two games, over Detroit and New York. But things get really tough in these final days of the season for the Heat and coach Eric Spoelstra (left), with a number of the game’s top teams still left on their schedule. UP NEXT: Friday vs New York.
INDIANA (37-38) EIGHTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
If the top four teams in the East were polled to see which team among this seven-team grouping they would like to see in the first round, the Pacers would be in everyone’s top three. While they have a dynamic game-changer in Paul George (left), his frustration with the team’s lack of success and overall direction is undeniable. You can count on teams like the Celtics to crank up their pursuit of George this summer via a potential trade. But until then, Boston -- like the rest of the East -- is hoping the Pacers can just get in. UP NEXT: Friday at Toronto.
CHICAGO (37-38) NINTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Life in the Windy City hasn’t been great, as the Bulls are seemingly letting their playoff chances blow away with no help on the horizon. Chicago has won two of its last three games, showing some signs of momentum, but this team has many holes up and down its roster. Couple that with a really tough schedule to close out the season, and it’s not hard to imagine the Bulls failing to make the playoffs. UP NEXT: Friday vs. Cleveland.
DETROIT (34-41) TENTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
The Pistons will have to get past a pair of teams to make the playoffs, which is looking more and more like an unlikely scenario. Injuries to key players like Reggie Jackson (left) has certainly had a negative impact on their postseason chances. But beyond that, they have young talent that doesn’t necessarily mesh well together. They currently trail the eighth-seed Pacers by three games, with seven still left to pay. UP NEXT: Tonight vs Brooklyn.
CHARLOTTE (34-41) ELEVENTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
I include them because they are mathematically still in the hunt for a playoff spot. But their play, particularly against teams they are battling with to get to the postseason, has been bad. Look for the Hornets to become the next team in the East eliminated from the playoffs. UP NEXT: Friday vs Denver.