Hornets remaining schedule to influence playoff chances

Kemba Walker leads Charlotte in points (18.8), assists (5.2) and steals (1.4) per game but remains sidelined after surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Now that the long break for the All-Star Game is finally over, teams in the NBA will start making their push for the playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference, where several teams try to enhance their chances to reaching the postseason. 

And it’s in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference where the real battles are being waged. 

There are six teams in the Eastern Conference — Charlotte, Miami, Detroit, Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana — within two games of each other and all six are fighting for just two playoff spots.

Currently, the Hornets (22-30) hold the seventh spot while Miami (22-30) is in the eighth position. But after a slew of trades on Thursday, as well as a key injury, as many as five of the six teams could have a real chance of grabbing a playoff berth.

What may ultimately decide the two playoff teams is the schedule each will have to face. 

In theory, Charlotte and Boston (21-31) have the easiest with each facing 16 teams with a losing record the rest of the way. Moreover, each of them have nine games against the other five teams and, therefore, can essentially control their own destiny. 

Brooklyn (21-31) has the hardest schedule with 16 games against teams with winning records and only plays the other five teams six times the rest of the way. It seems that of all of the six teams, the Nets have the least likely chance of reaching the playoffs.

Here’s where things get interesting:

The Heat made a huge acquisition Thursday when they traded for Phoenix point guard Goran Dragic, who is considered one of the best in the NBA. However, just when it seemed Miami was poised to secure a playoff spot, it was reported Friday that All-Star forward Chris Bosh may miss the rest of the season because of a potential blood clots in his lungs. 

If Bosh is out an extended period of time, it erases any advantage Miami had gained by grabbing Dragic.

Detroit (21-33), which only plays 13 games against teams with winning records, didn’t stand pat either at the trade deadline. The Pistons went out and got shooting guard Reggie Jackson from Oklahoma City. He is a quality shooter and should pay immediate dividends. 

Boston also helped itself by getting Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas while Brooklyn picked up Thaddeus Young, a solid forward from Minnesota. 

Indiana (21-33) didn’t do anything at the trade deadline, but there have been reports that its star player Paul George, who sustained a gruesome broken leg during the summer with Team USA, could return late to help make a playoff run.

Of course, the Hornets were active, too, trading for veteran point guard Mo Williams of the Timberwolves to help ease the absence of injured Kemba Walker. Williams joins the team as the best outside shooter on the roster.

These six teams have been jumbled up nearly all season long, but by the time April rolls around at least one, if not two teams, likely will have fallen by the wayside. However, should all six teams still be in the chase on April 1, the distinct advantage goes to Detroit, which plays only two winning teams versus six losing teams in the last two weeks.

The hardest schedule down the stretch goes to Brooklyn, which has seven games against winning teams and only two against losing teams, and Boston, which has six games against winning teams and two against losing teams.

Here’s how the schedules of six teams fighting for the two playoff spots compare against the five teams they’re battling for the playoffs  based on number of teams with winning records, losing records and how many times they face the other:

Remaining Schedule

 

Games vs. over .500


Games vs. under .500


Games vs. other five
DET 13 14 8
CHA 14 16 9
BOS 14 16 9
MIA 15 15 7
IND 15 13 7
BKN 16 14 6

Here’s how the schedules of the six teams fighting for the two playoff spots compare in the final two weeks of the season:

Remaining Schedule

 

Games vs. over .500


Games vs. under .500
DET 2 6
IND 3 5
MIA 3 5
CHA 4 5
BOS 6 2
BKN 7 2