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NBA Playoff Picture 2011: Brutal Battle Between Celtics, Bulls For First, Knicks Falling

Boston Celtics. Chicago Bulls. Boston Celtics. Chicago Bulls. Is it going to be the established grizzly vets or the young upstarts that will grab the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs?

Both teams enter play this week with identical 49-19 records, although it's the Bulls that have been charging of late, winning eight of their last 10 to forge that first place tie.

So what does the No. 1 seed bring? A more favorable matchup in the first round of the playoffs and the likely avoidance of the Miami Heat until the Eastern Conference Finals.

The team that finishes atop the East will likely face the Indiana Pacers (30-40), the Milwaukee Bucks (28-41) or the Charlotte Bobcats (28-41) in the first round of the playoffs. The No. 2 seed? They'll either get the struggling New York Knicks (35-34) or the Philadelphia 76ers (36-34).

For now, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the 48-22 Heat have settled into that No. 3 spot, two games behind the C's and the Bulls for the top spot in the East.

As for your Atlanta Hawks? They'll most likely be the No. 5 seed  and take on Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic (44-26) in the first round. The winner will get the Celtics or Bulls in the second round.

Here are your up-to-date standings. Through the games played on March 20, 2011.

Eastern Conference
 Team GB 
 1.  y- Boston (49-19) -- 
 2.  y- Chicago (49-19) -- 
 3.  x- Miami (48-22) 2.0 
 4.  x- Orlando (44-26) 6.0 
 5.   Atlanta (40-30) 10.0 
 6.   Philadelphia (36-34) 14.0 
 7.   New York (35-34) 14.5 
 8.   Indiana (30-40) 20.0 
 9.   Milwaukee (28-41) 21.5 
 10.   Charlotte (28-41)


y - Clinched Division Title   x - Clinched Playoff Spot

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.