The Toronto Raptors made a few big moves at the trade deadline, picking up Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker, and they looked as though they were prepping for a run at the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But a wrist injury to Kyle Lowry kept them from playing at full strength for most of the last few weeks, and they stayed just off the pace. But now, with two games left, the Raptors have their full roster and need a Boston loss down the stretch to have a chance at the two seed. Either way, if they hope to finish in the three spot or higher, they need to win their two remaining games, today against the Knicks and Wednesday against Cleveland. At 30-50, the Knicks have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. They’ve won three of their last seven, however.
The Cavs are still engaged in a battle for that No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. They knocked off the Boston Celtics last week to create a bit of breathing room at the top, but on Friday night they hosted this same Hawks team, who fielded a lineup that was without all five of their regular starters. Despite the Cavs using their big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the decimated Hawks somehow dominated from start to finish and won going away, 114-100. Cleveland’s defense has been awful post-All-Star — better than only the Lakers — and they need to find some answers right away. Cleveland enters this game at 51-28, with Boston half a game behind. Atlanta clinched a playoff spot last night with Charlotte’s loss, and is currently in the fifth spot in the East, half a game ahead of Milwaukee, with two games left on their schedule. While the Hawks can’t finish any higher than fifth, finishing in the No. 5 or 6 seed would allow them to avoid either Boston or Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. As of yesterday, the Hawks listed usual starters Dennis Schröder, Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap as “probable” for today’s game.