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The race for the Eastern Conference playoffs

The top six teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs are all but set in stone. While the seeding is uncertain, the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks are in. It is the final two spots that will bring so much intrigue over the last two months of the regular season.

On Sunday morning, this is how the standings look:

7. Miami Heat              23-31
8. Brooklyn Nets         22-31
9. Charlotte Hornets  22-31
10. Detroit Pistons      22-33
11. Indiana Pacers       22-33
12. Boston Celtics        20-32

Some might ask if this race even matters. Normally, it would be six teams fighting for a pair of postseason spots, only to be pounded into oblivion by the two dominant teams of the conference. However, this year could have a different vibe.

Miami, even without Chris Bosh, could be a thorn in the side of either Atlanta or Toronto. Dwyane Wade is always dangerous and now with Gorin Dragic and Luol Deng, the Heat have firepower. Brooklyn is a bad team, but the Nets do have players in Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Brooklyn’s size is an interesting matchup because it is coupled with the ability to shoot from the outside.

Here are my projected odds for each team to make the playoffs:

Miami Heat – 35 percent

Miami looked like a sure bet after trading for Dragic, but the loss of Bosh could really cripple this group. If the Heat get in, they can still do damage provided they don’t play a team with ample size.

Brooklyn Nets – 10 percent

The Nets are in desperate need of a rebuild, but for 2015 this group will have to do. Brooklyn is without any real depth and is probably one of the least threatening teams in this gaggle.

Charlotte Hornets – 5 percent

The Hornets have a major problem. Charlotte has played 29 home games compared to 24 road dates, leaving a litany of tough contests ahead. This is also a team lacking any star-power, leaving the Hornets without a true go-to player down the stretch.

Detroit Pistons – 10 percent

Detroit has actually been one of the better teams in the East after a miserable start over the first two months. The Pistons are playing good basketball under Jeff Van Gundy and after acquiring Reggie Jackson, have the potential to be offensively prolific. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe also pose significant problems inside.

Indiana Pacers – 40 percent

The Pacers are a good bet to make the playoffs. Even though the roster is thin, the potential return of Paul George pushes them over the edge. Indiana also have the scheduling advantage of playing 16 more home games against 11 road contests.

Boston Celtics – 0 percent

Brad Stevens is going a nice job coaching this group, but the talent isn’t there to make a run. The fact Boston is even in this race is a credit to the squad.

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