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2012 NBA Standings: Eastern Conference Playoff Picture Couldn't Get Much Tighter

The playoff race in the Eastern Conference can't get any tighter as tonight's Hawks-Celtics matchup could go a long way in determining who gets homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks enter play tonight with a 34-23 record and exactly one game better than the Boston Celtics. A loss to the Celtics tonight would give Boston the season series and the tie breaker should the two teams finished tied.

Boston leads the Atlantic Division and that is why they are currently listed as the fourth seed and ahead of the Hawks who currently have a better record. However, if Atlanta remains fifth and has a better record than the Celtics then the Hawks will still get homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Atlanta enters play tonight just a half game ahead of Orlando and one game behind the Indiana Pacers for third place. So the situation remains fluid. The Hawks will take on the Magic on Friday and could catch a break if Dwight Howard is unable to play due to a sore back. Howard sat out the Magic's loss to the Wizards on Tuesday.

Here is a look at the Eastern Conference Standings heading into play tonight:

1. Chicago 44 14 --
2. Miami 40 16 3.0
3. Indiana 35 22 8.5
4. Boston 33 24 10.5
5. Atlanta 34 23 9.5
6. Orlando 34 24 10
7. Philadelphia 30 27 13.5
8. New York 29 28 14.5
*9. Milwaukee 28 29 15.5

For more on this game Hawks fans should check out Peachtree Hoops and Celtics fans should visit CelticsBlog. For more news and notes from around the NBA head over to SB Nation's NBA Basketball Page.

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