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Following Miami’s 129-122 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, the New York Knicks will have to wait another day to clinch their spot in the postseason after an impressive 130-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
The Knicks once again sent a message to the top of the Eastern Conference that they are unafraid of any potential playoff matchup, even without the help of All-Star forward Julius Randle, who is set to miss at least two weeks with an ankle injury.
Jalen Brunson continued his stunner of a season as he dropped a career-high 48 points against the Cavs.
With just four games remaining in its season, New York looks locked in at the No. 5 seed come playoff time, as it has a 2.5-game lead over the Nets in the No. 6 seed.
Here’s what the rest of the league looks like heading into the final week of the regular season.
Eastern Conference Standings
1. Milwaukee Bucks (55-22) -y
2. Boston Celtics (54-24) -x
3. Philadelphia 76ers (51-26) -x
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-30) -x
5. New York Knicks (45-33)
6. Brooklyn Nets (42-35)
7. Miami Heat (41-37)
8. Atlanta Hawks (38-39)
9. Toronto Raptors (38-39)
10. Chicago Bulls (37-40)
11. Washington Wizards (34-43)
12. Indiana Pacers (34-44)
13. Orlando Magic (33-44)
14. Charlotte Hornets (26-52)
15. Detroit Pistons (16-61)
Western Conference Standings
1. Denver Nuggets (51-26) -y
2. Memphis Grizzlies (49-28) – y
3. Sacramento Kings (47-30) -x
4. Phoenix Suns (42-35)
5. Golden State Warriors (41-37)
6. Los Angeles Clippers (41-38)
7. New Orleans Pelicans (40-38)
8. Los Angeles Lakers (39-38)
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (39-39)
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-40)
11. Dallas Mavericks (37-41)
12. Utah Jazz (36-41)
13. Portland Trail Blazers (32-45)
14. San Antonio Spurs (19-58)
15. Houston Rockets (19-59)
A potential battle is brewing in the East in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup between the Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two sides put on a show with Brunson (48 points) and the Cavs’ Donovan Mitchell (42 points), leading their respective sides on Friday night, and it’s looking like the two are on a collision course for a showdown that could go the distance.
In terms of the No. 1 seed, things became a bit more intriguing after the Celtics strung together an emphatic 140-99 win over the top-seeded Bucks on Thursday. The gap at the top of the East is now down to just 1.5 games with the Bucks set to host the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
While Milwaukee will likely be able to hold on to the top seed after being the best team in the conference over the last few months, that last game between the two teams may be playing in the back of the Bucks’ minds in a future playoff series.
After the first few weeks of the season it would have been hard to imagine the Los Angeles Lakers being in a position to qualify for the postseason, but they have managed a nice second-half turnaround that has them in the top spot of the play-in tournament with an outside chance of grabbing one of the top six seeds.
The return of superstar LeBron James has obviously been a big boost for the rest of the squad, as they have won two of their last three games since James came back from a foot injury that caused him to miss 13 games.
Los Angeles is also above.500 for the first time this season. But with how jumbled up that middle section of the West is, the Lakers’ position in the playoff picture is still tenuous as the Nos. 7-11 seeds are separated by just three games.
Speaking of tenuous, the Dallas Mavericks are headed for a potential disaster and appear poised to miss out on the play-in tournament entirely if their recent form is any indication.
Following Saturday’s loss to the Miami Heat, Dallas is now 1-6 in its last seven games and, at best, can finish the season at .500.
The Mavs head into Sunday four games below .500 at 37-41, occupying the West’s No. 11 seed.