The Milwaukee Bucks were left for dead a few months ago, and even after winning six straight games they still stood three games below .500. The East is the East, however, so not even the Bucks were completely out of the playoff chase. The trade for Monta Ellis only bolstered their case.
The Celtics have a tenuous grip on the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference now that the New York Knicks are playing better (again) under interim coach Mike Woodson. The Cleveland Cavaliers lost their footing after briefly looking like they would be Boston and New York’s top competition for one of the final two playoff spots, but as the Bucks have proved, all it takes is a few good weeks to put a team back into the postseason discussion.
The Detroit Pistons are 4.5 games out of a playoff spot and eight games behind the Celtics, all but mathematically eliminating them from contention. Streakiness has been the Pistons’ top trait this season, though. They went through one stretch in which they won seven games out of nine, including two victories over the Celtics.
In the East, virtually no one is out of the playoff picture.