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NBA East playoff picture: Heat distance themselves from group, Cavs lose Jarrett Allen

Here’s how the Eastern conference looks as the season winds down.

Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen (31) dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With the calendar flipping to March, it is a perfect time to look at the playoff picture for the Eastern and Western Conferences. At this time of the year, teams in both conferences are jockeying for playoff seeding or trying to get into the play-in tournament.

In the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat are in sole possession of the No. 1 seed as they are three games up on the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. If Miami can hold, they will have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. There’s also an interesting battle for the play-in tournament between the Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, and Atlanta Hawks, who all have essentially the same record.

Below we’ll take a look at the current standings as of March 7th and playoff picture in the East, while also giving our predictions on how the East could shake out.

Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

1. Miami Heat (44-22)
2. Philadelphia 76ers (40-24) 3.0 GB
3. Milwaukee Bucks (40-25) 3.5 GB
4. Chicago Bulls (39-26) 4.5 GB
5. Boston Celtics (39-27) 5 GB
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (37-27) 6 GB

Play-in tournament

7. Toronto Raptors (34-30) 9 GB
8. Charlotte Hornets (32-33) 11.5 GB
9. Brooklyn Nets (32-33) 11.5 GB
10. Atlanta Hawks (31-33) 12 GB

11. Washington Wizards (29-34) 13 GB
12. New York Knicks (27-38) 16.5 GB

Update March 8 — The Sixers picked up a win over the Bulls on Monday. The Heat also got a win, so the standings didn’t shift at all really. Chicago continues to fall further down the standings and are in danger of dropping out of home court advantage territory.

The Washington Wizards are only two games out of the play-in tournament, but its tough to see them leapfrogging the Hawks, Nets or Hornets as they all the better talent. However, its not out of the realm possibility to see the Wizards back in it for the second-straight season.

Outside of the play-in tournament, the Cleveland Cavaliers could be in trouble as they lost All-Star center Jarrett Allen to fractured finger on Sunday night against Toronto. Allen will be out indefinitely, which is a huge blow for a Cavs’ team that has been hit by injuries over the last few weeks. Cleveland is only a game behind the Celtics and three games ahead of the Raptors.

If the Raptors can get Fred VanVleet back sooner than later, Toronto can make a push for the sixth seed. However, the Cavs currently lead the season series 3-0 over Toronto, giving them the tiebreaker. Lastly, keep an eye out on the Celtics, who are only a game behind the Chicago Bulls for fourth and 1.5 games behind the Bucks and Sixers. Boston is playing great basketball for the last few weeks and will be a tough out in the playoffs, regardless of who they play.