The most intriguing playoff race with just a few days left in the NBA’s regular season is in the Eastern Conference, with the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat all fighting for the final two spots. 5Dines has odds on each team making the postseason.
Six teams have clinched playoff spots in the East: Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington, Atlanta and Milwaukee. The order of those clubs could change but they are all in. Entering Monday, Indiana holds down the seventh spot with a 40-40 record. Chicago is eighth at 39-41 and Miami ninth with the same record.
On 5Dimes NBA odds, the Pacers are -750 to make the postseason and +450 to miss. Of course any two-team tiebreaker is head-to-head. FiveThirtyEight gives Indiana an 80 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Pacers are at Philadelphia on Monday and home to Atlanta on Wednesday. Indiana is an 8-point favorite against the tanking 76ers and will be favored against the Hawks, who could be locked into their playoff seeding come Wednesday and have no reason to play their starters.
The Pacers’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is currently two, marking any combination of Pacers wins and Heat losses. Indiana is on a three-game winning streak for only the third time this season and first since the team’s seven-game winning streak from Jan. 26-Feb. 6. It ended an eight-game road skid with a blowout win in Orlando on Saturday. The Pacers’ 127 points were a season high as was their 59.3 percent shooting. I do think the Pacers win both and get in.
Chicago is -510 to make the playoffs and +340 to miss. The Bulls won the season series with Miami 2-1 so they own that tiebreaker. The Bulls’ remaining schedule is a piece of cake, hosting Orlando on Monday and Brooklyn on Wednesday. That said, Chicago tends to play to its opponent’s level. The Bulls are 4-0 this season, for example, vs. Cleveland (a potential first-round playoff opponent) but just lost in Brooklyn 107-106 on Saturday. Dwyane Wade returned from an elbow injury for the Bulls in that one; he hadn’t played since March 15. FiveThirtyEight gives Chicago an 83 percent chance of making the playoffs. They should.
The Heat are +220 to make the postseason, -300 to miss out and are given a 37 percent chance by FiveThirtyEight. Miami hosts Cleveland on Monday and Washington on Wednesday. As of this writing, the Cavs still have to care because they haven’t clinched the top seed in the East yet. The Wizards might be locked into the No. 4 seed by Wednesday. The Heat would win a two-team tiebreaker over Indiana. The Heat would be the second team to get in the postseason if Miami, Chicago and Indiana finish tied for the final two playoff spots. Chicago would get in as the seventh seed by virtue of its 4-3 record against the other teams.
Miami has played the past 11 games without third-leading scorer Dion Waiters due to a foot injury. He has been upgraded to questionable for Monday. The Heat have won 12 straight home games vs. the Cavs – many of those when LeBron James was with Miami. After starting the season 11-30, the Heat have gone 28-11. That’s the most victories in league history by a team that was previously at least 19 games under .500 that same season. Too little, too late, I think.Bet On NBA Futures At SBR’s Top Sportsbooks