Breaking down the NBA East playoff chase

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots the ball over Cleveland Cavaliers forward Luol Deng (9) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. The Cavaliers won 106-100.

Anthony Gruppuso/Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Three teams are vying for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference: The Hawks, the Knicks and the Cavaliers.

As of Tuesday, the Hawks are the No. 8 seed. They hold a one game lead over the Knicks, and a three-game lead over the Cavs. Here is a breakdown of what each team is facing:

HAWKS (32-41)

Games back: None

Games left: Nine (six at home, three on road)

Remaining schedule: vs. Bulls, vs. Cavs, at Pacers, vs. Pistons, vs. Celtics, at Nets, vs. Heat, vs. Bobcats, vs. Bucks.

Record vs. East: 22-21

KNICKS (32-43)

Games back: One

Games left: Seven (four at home, three on road)

Remaining schedule: vs. Nets, vs. Wizards, at Heat, at Raptors, vs. Bulls, at Nets, vs. Raptors.

Record vs. East: 21-24

CAVS (30-45)

Games back: Three

Game left: Seven (four at home, three on road)

Remaining schedule: at Magic, at Hawks, vs. Bobcats, vs. Pistons, at Bucks, vs. Celtics, vs. Nets.

Record vs. East: 18-27


1. The Hawks hold the tiebreaker over the Cavs, via winning the season series (2-0). One game remains between the teams (Friday at Atlanta). Obviously, the outcome will have no impact on the season series — but likely plenty in the actual playoff chase.

2. The Knicks and Cavs tied their season series, 2-2. The teams don’t play again, so it comes down to who owns the better record in conference games. Right now, that advantage goes to the Knicks.

3. If all three teams finished with identical records, the Cavs would be eliminated since they lost the season series to the Hawks.

4. As an aside, the Hawks and Knicks also split their season series, 2-2. Current advantage based on East record: Hawks.