Jockeying for position: Tie-breakers in focus

The Boston Celtics still have 16 games to play and it's probably too early to start sweating potential tie-breakers, particularly with seeds 3-7 currently separated by a mere 3½ games. But a few notes as teams gear up for the sprint to the finish line over the final month of the season:

* The Celtics and Bulls currently own matching records at 36-30. The two teams split the season series (Boston is probably kicking itself about an overtime game it kicked away in January) and therefore the tie-breaker shifts to conference record where the Bulls (26-13) have a sizable lead over the Celtics (22-18).

* The Celtics are 2-1 against the Hawks (an overtime loss on Jan. 25 looms large yet again) and can win the season series with a victory in Boston on March 29. The Hawks are 22-17 in the conference. The Celtics are a half game behind the Hawks at the moment.

* Boston has a two-game lead over Milwaukee while trying to avoid the eighth seed (and a first-round matchup with the Heat). The schedule appears to be working in their favor. Milwaukee has 10 games remaining against teams currently over .500 (six of which are on the road). By comparison, Boston has seven such games (three on the road). Keep in mind that the Bucks have the head-to-head tie-breaker after winning three of four this season.

* Chicago actually appears to have the easiest remaining schedule in the East, playing only five teams above. 500 (two on the road). Things are a bit more daunting for Brooklyn (six games against winning teams; five on the road) and Atlanta (eight games against winning teams; five on the road), which might aid Boston in any quest to climb.