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Monday, April 16, 2012
Jockeying for position: Hawks or Magic?

By Chris Forsberg

With 10 days remaining in the NBA regular season, the playoff picture is slowly coming into focus. On the heels of a 2-1 performance in this weekend's back-to-back-to-back, the Boston Celtics have essentially cemented their position as the No. 4 seed. The Celtics have a four-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers (and 4 over the Knicks) and can essentially seal the division with their next victory. Boston is three games behind Indiana in the loss column, making it hard to imagine the Celtics can make up the 2 games needed to catch the Pacers for the No. 3 seed.

A glance at the standings through Sunday's action:

http://espn.go.com/nba/standings

Now here's where it gets interesting. With the Celtics playing inspired ball in the second half of the season, they might actually be perceived as the tougher draw than Indiana at No. 3. All of which makes you wonder if the Hawks or Magic would prefer slip back to the No. 6 seed in order to avoid Boston. What's more, an upset by the No. 6 seed would likely mean the Heat instead of the Bulls in the conference semifinals -- what some would consider an easier draw given Miami's inconsistent play lately. But here's one more thing to consider: Home-court advantage in the 4-5 matchup will be determined by better overall record. The Celtics have a -game edge over both Atlanta and Orlando at the moment, but four of Boston's five final matchups come against playoff-bound teams (yes, including the Hawks and Magic), which might make it difficult for the Celtics to finish with the best mark.

Your turn: Who would you prefer the Celtics draw in the opening round: Hawks or Magic? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments.