There are three teams vying for two remaining spots in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs, as the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat have taken their hopes all the way down to the season’s final day. Here’s a snapshot look at where each team stands heading into its last game.
Pacers: clinch with a win at home versus Hawks
The Pacers have seemingly alternated hot and cold streaks over the past couple of months, but they’re trying to ride one last hot run to a playoff spot. They’ll enter Wednesday’s game against Atlanta on a four-game win streak, with all four by at least nine points (three by at least 15 points). The Pacers are 1-1 against the Hawks this season, with the win coming on a last-second 3-pointer by Glenn Robinson III.
One key stat: The Pacers will go as far as Paul George will take them. George entered March averaging 21.7 points on 44 percent shooting. Since then, he’s averaging 28.3 points on 50 percent shooting. The Pacers are 15-7 this season when he shoots better than 50 percent from the field.
George was 6-of-22 from the field in a 96-85 loss to the Hawks in November; he was 12-of-19 in Indiana's one-point win in March. George has scored at least 20 points in 11 straight games, the longest current streak in the NBA.
Bulls: clinch with a win at home versus Nets
This would seem to be a highly favorable situation for the Bulls, but the Nets are not an automatic win by any means. The Nets have won four of their past six contests, including a road win over the Hawks and a one-point home victory over the Bulls that put Chicago in this precarious position.
One key stat: The Bulls have received an unexpected boost from Jerian Grant while Rajon Rondo has been injured. Grant is averaging 15.7 points and 7.0 assists on 60 percent shooting during his past three games. With Grant on the floor, the Bulls outscored the Nets by 14 points in that narrow defeat.
Heat: clinch with a win at home versus Wizards and a loss by either Pacers or Bulls
The Heat are looking to go from an inauspicious beginning to a happy ending, hoping that there is one more miracle left in a season in which they started 11-30 but have since gone 29-11. (Per the Elias Sports Bureau, they have the best record for a team that was 19 under .500 at any point during the season.) They’re still alive on the strength of a comeback from 11 points down in the fourth quarter against the Cavaliers on Monday night.
One key stat: The one potential Heat bugaboo could be their free throw shooting. They’re at an NBA worst 70.5 percent for the season. One player who gets to the line a lot is Hassan Whiteside, a 63 percent free throw shooter. He scored 30 in a win over the Wizards on Saturday and is averaging 21.7 points and 15.3 rebounds in the three games (all wins) against Washington this season.