The Fifth Quarter: East playoff picture clutters as teams jockey for position

NBA Basketball

If you are claustrophobic, the Eastern Conference is not the place to be right now. 

Once (and by

once, meaning last year) considered to be the lesser of the two conferences, the East is doing numbers like 2 Pac on Death Row Records.

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While the Cavaliers and Raptors appear to be the class of the conference, the Nos. 3-8 seeds could and likely will switch hands a number of times between now and the end of the season. The Celtics currently occupy third place at 39-27, but the Heat (39-28) are breathing down their necks, along with the Hawks (38-29) and Hornets (37-29). Even the Bulls in the No. 8 spot have 33 wins, just six fewer than the Celtics. 

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Have no fear: The 76ers are out of the running. But almost everything else is still on the table. 

Stud of the night

Doug McDermott led the way for the Bulls as they beat the Raptors 109-107. McDermott finished with 29 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field.

Dud of the night

The Grizzlies are missing a lot. No Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley Jr. or Vince Carter. Heck, even Lance Stephenson was out. (And if you’re down to counting on Stephenson, have mercy.) But still, the Grizzlies' 130-81 loss to the Rockets was just hard to watch, as the Grizz shot just 29.7 percent.

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Tweet of the night

The Raptors took a tumble Monday night, but Lowry was sensational. The All-Star point guard scored 33 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out seven assists in the Raptors' loss. 

Looking ahead

Celtics (39-27) at Pacers (35-31), 7 p.m. ET: The Celtics are in third place in the East, but as noted above, there is a crowd behind them waiting to move in. The Pacers are among that crowd, having won four of their last six games.