Updated 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picture: Monday, March 31

Jim Cavan@@JPCavanContributor IApril 1, 2014

Getty Images

Another night, a few more rumblings in the NBA standings, where the playoff picture is somehow getting sharper and fuzzier all at once.

Gut check? More like gut punch for the Indiana Pacers, who fell for the third straight game, this time to the San Antonio Spurs, 103-77.

That loss helped the Miami Heatvictorious over the Toronto Raptors, 93-83leapfrog to the top of the East standings.

Things were a bit quieter out West, where it was mostly basketball chalk: The Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies held strong, and the Utah Jazz handed the New York Knicks their 11th win in 14 games.

The victory, coupled with a nail-biting win by the Atlanta Hawks over the Philadelphia 76ers, kept the 'Bockers at a game's distance for the conference's No. 8 playoff spot.

Next time I'm gonna finger-paint y'all a playoff picture. Promise. For now, here are some pixels.

Eastern Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
New York32-43.4272021-24

Clinched: Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards.

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth: (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds)

Charlotte Bobcats:  99.9 percent

Atlanta Hawks: 81.9 percent  

New York Knicks: 14.2 percent

Cleveland Cavaliers: 4.0 percent

Eliminated from Contention: Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks.

If Playoffs Started Today

Miami vs. Atlanta (Miami leads season series 2-1)

Indiana vs. Charlotte (Indiana won season series 2-1)

Toronto vs. Washington (Toronto won season series 3-1)

Chicago vs. Brooklyn (Chicago won season series 2-1)

Western Conference Standings
TeamWin-LossWinning PercentageGames BackConference Record
San Antonio58-16.784-34-10
Oklahoma City54-19.7403.532-13
L.A. Clippers53-22.7075.532-13
Golden State45-28.61612.525-18
New Orleans32-42.4322613-31
L.A. Lakers25-48.34232.513-30

Clinched: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers.

Still Fighting for Postseason Berth: (according to Hollinger's 2013-14 Playoff Odds)

Golden State Warriors: 99.0 percent

Memphis Grizzlies: 83.6 percent

Dallas Mavericks: 72.8 percent

Phoenix Suns: 44.6 percent

Eliminated from Contention: Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, L.A. Lakers, Utah Jazz.

If Playoffs Started Today

San Antonio vs. Memphis (San Antonio leads season series 3-0)

Oklahoma City vs. Dallas (Dallas won season series 2-1)

L.A. Clippers vs. Golden State (season series tied 2-2)

Houston vs. Portland (Houston won season series 3-1)

Tuesday's Schedule
BrooklynHouston8:00 pm ET
DallasGolden State8:30 pm ET
L.A. LakersPortland10:30 pm ET

Mar 30, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (left) and center Roy Hibbert (55) react on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Unanswered Questions

1. How Fractured Are the Pacers, Exactly?

We've started to scratch the surface of Indy's basketball woes, finding beneath the fragile skin some underlying locker room tension. From Pacers.com beat reporter Scott Agness:

Yikes. And that's not even the worst thing Roy Hibbert has said in the past week. From a recent column by NBA.com's David Aldridge:

Some selfish dudes in here. Some selfish dudes. I'm tired of talking about it. We've been talking about it for a month. ... We play hard, but we've got to move the ball. Is it obvious, or what? I don't know whatever our assist ratio, or whatever it is, is in the league, but it probably isn't up there. I'm really trying hard not to spaz out right now, but I don't know.

Neither do we, Roy. Neither do we.

At this point, it would probably behoove the Pacers to consider a few things: another, legitimate players-only meeting and resting their starters for the playoffs. At this point, the No. 1 seed won't even be worth it if the team that owns it winds up stumbling and bumbling into the postseason.

Remember when the Pacers were the epitome of tough-minded, take-no-prisoners togetherness? Seems like eons ago.

2. Are the Spurs Really the Team to Beat?

Might there be a reason we've made such a curious habit out of selling the Spurs short? Say, perhaps, the fact that they haven't turned regular-season performance into postseason gold since 2007?

We know, we knowthey came within a single botched rebound of dethroning the Heat in Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals.

Are the Spurs better than a year ago? In the midst of this blisteringnot to mention brilliantly timed18-game winning streak, it'd be pretty tough to argue otherwise.

That they've done it in one of the most loaded conferences in recent memory would seem to be a boon, but even that ignores a pesky fact: Beating any one of the West's top four seeds in a seven-game playoff series will be far easier said than done.

Mar 31, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) and Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) react in the second half of a game against the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 93-83. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

3. Will Miami Do Everything Possible to Hold on to No. 1?

Seriously, when was the last time the Heat were tops in the East? Last season? Well, they have to be feeling good about themselves now, with them having basically stumbled into the conference's top slot due more to Indiana's incredibly poor play than a focused Miami effort.

Like the Pacers, the Heat have some decisions to make with respect to rest. There's absolutely no danger of falling past the No. 2 seed, so the opportunity is there to err on the side of postseason caution.

But if the Pacers need home court as badly as Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley thinks they do, the onus ought to be on Miami to see to it that that plan doesn't come to full fruition:

Like Vogel pointed out, it means more than simply hosting a Game 7. Just by scoring one road win, the Pacers would have to drop two games on their home floor to lose a seven-game series. They've lost just four home games—and won 33—all season.

And if the series lasts seven games, hosting that final contest is a tremendous edge.

That's not a feeling or a hunch, either—that's what the numbers say. NBA home teams "are 91-23 all-time in Game 7s," per ESPN Stats and Information, a record strengthened by the Heat, who scored a pair of Game 7 wins in South Beach en route to the 2013 NBA championship.

While the Pacers are in full-on chemistry-crisis mode, the Heat are dealing with a different issue: injuries to aging players, including LeBron James, Ray Allen and Shane Battier. 

How head coach Erik Spoelstra handles this stretch decisionto rest, or not to rest?could play a huge role in how the East shakes out in late May.


    This NBA Draft May Get GMs Fired

    NBA logo

    This NBA Draft May Get GMs Fired

    Ric Bucher
    via Bleacher Report

    Bucks' Brown Claims MIL Cop Joked About Beating JR Smith

    NBA logo

    Bucks' Brown Claims MIL Cop Joked About Beating JR Smith

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report

    Bucks' Brown Suing City of Milwaukee

    NBA logo

    Bucks' Brown Suing City of Milwaukee

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report

    The Draft Prospect Every Team Should Avoid

    NBA logo

    The Draft Prospect Every Team Should Avoid

    Kelly Scaletta
    via Bleacher Report