No offense to the Cleveland Cavaliers but it appears it’s just a two-team race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After the Cavs pair of losses to the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks earlier in the week, it’s down to two squads battling for the only slot left: the Hawks and the New York Knicks.
Seven teams have already clinched namely the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats.
Battle for the East’s 8th Spot
8. Atlanta Hawks (33-42) 9. New York Knicks (33-44) 10. Cleveland Cavaliers (31-47)
Last Friday, the Knicks fell to the Wizards, 90-89 and the Hawks beat up the Cavs, 117-98 as the teams flipped positions in the 8th and 9th positions in the East standings. Atlanta is now one game ahead of Carmelo Anthony’s squad although they still have the same number of wins thus far.
Both squads will travel on Sunday and take on East’s top teams. The Hawks gets tested by the Indiana Pacers and the Knicks meet rivals Miami Heat.
New York Knicks (2 home, 3 away) - @MIA, @TOR, CHI, @BKN, TOR Atlanta Hawks (4 home, 3 away) - @IND, DET, BOS, @BKN, MIA, CHA, @MIL Cleveland Cavaliers (3 home, 1 away) - DET, @MIL, BOS, BKN
The Cavaliers are NOT mathematically out of it; although they’ll need help from both the Knicks and Hawks to advance to the next round. (If the Knicks/Hawks get to 36 wins the Cavs are automatically out of the race)
Aside from the Indiana game, they’ll still meet playoff squads Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte. The good news is they have winnable games against scrub teams like Detroit, Boston and Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the Knicks are in a tough spot. ALL of their games left are against teams currently in the playoff picture. After the Miami game they’ll face Toronto (twice), Chicago and Brooklyn.
Can Melo lead the Knicks to the playoffs? Or will Paul Millsap tow the Hawks to the 8th seed?