Eastern Conference Standings: Pacers' Grasp On Third Place Far From Firm

The Indiana Pacers have won eight of their last eleven games to jump up to the third best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. But with 12 games remaining on the schedule there is no time to relax for the Pacers if they want to maintain their status near the top of the standings.

The Orlando Magic are day-to-day with the Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard mess but they remain just 1.5 games behind the Pacers with 12 games to play. After the Magic loss to the Knicks on Thursday they drop into a tie with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks are suddenly the biggest threat to overtake the Pacers as the Magic appear poised to fade while the Philadelphia 76ers are actually fading. Holding the third spot and home court advantage for the first round should keep the Pacers attention as they try to maintain their favorable position in the East, but with two tough games against Oklahoma City and Boston.

Meanwhile the Atlanta Hawks have just 11 games remaining and the easiest schedule as Michael Cunningham reported two days ago. Like the Pacers, the majority of Atlanta's remaining games are at home. So there is no time for let downs or trap games for the Pacers need to finish strong not just to prepare for the playoffs but to put themselves in the best position to go into the playoffs.

It has been fun to scoreboard watch this season but the teams continue to change. After watching the Sixers for so long, no the attention switches from the Magic to the Hawks. Oh, and don't forget the Celtics who appear set to lock up at least a 4th seed but could make a run at the third spot and home court before the season ends.

So when the season ends and the standings are set, where do you hope the Pacers are slotted and against which team would you prefer they play in the first round?

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