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NBA playoff picture: One month to go

Each Monday down the stretch, we'll take a look at the upcoming stretch for each team mathematically alive in the East and West playoff races, and break down what they need to do to stay alive in the postseason hunt.

EAST

1. Chicago Bulls (40-10)
*clinched a playoff berth, division leader
Status:
Fighting for No. 1 seed
Schedule: vs. Denver, at Atlanta, vs. Detroit, at Oklahoma City
This week: With Derrick Rose expected to miss more time, the Bulls get a trio of tests in Denver, Atlanta and OKC. 3.5 games up on Miami, there is some room for error.

2. Miami Heat (35-12)
*division leader
Status: Fighting for No. 1 seed
Schedule: at Indiana, vs. Dallas, at Toronto, at Boston
This week: Miami has struggled on the road all season. Road games against the Pacers, Celtics could be telling.

3. Orlando Magic (31-18)
Status: Clinging to home court
Schedule: at Toronto, at Knicks, vs. Dallas, vs. Denver
This week: Three straight tough games to finish the week. The streaky Magic, who have been cold lately, need to heat up to hold off Hawks for No. 3 seed.

4. Philadelphia 76ers (27-22)
*division leader
Status:
In divisional battle
Schedule: vs. Cleveland, at Washington, vs. Atlanta
This week: Sixers have been abysmal lately, and could get passed by the Celts and Knicks by season's end. Pair of cupcake games could give them a much needed confidence boost.

5. Atlanta Hawks (30-20)
Status: Fighting for home court
Schedule: at Milwaukee, vs. Chicago, vs. Knicks, at Philadelphia
This week: The Hawks haven't been able to beat playoff teams this year. This week, they get three of them. Can Atlanta figure it out?

6. Indiana Pacers (28-19)
Status: Fighting for home court
Schedule: vs. Miami, at New Jersey, vs. Washington, at San Antonio, at Houston
This week: The Pacers will look to survive a brutal five-game week. Indiana is 0-3 against Miami this year, and San Antonio is almost unbeatable (20-4) at home.

7. Boston Celtics (26-22)
Status: In divisional battle
Schedule: at Charlotte, vs. Utah, at Minnesota, vs. Miami
This week: Boston could easily lose three of four this week. While the Atlantic is in play, Milwaukee is just four games behind.

8. Knicks (24-25)
Status: In divisional battle
Schedule: vs. Milwaukee, vs. Orlando, at Atlanta, vs. Cleveland
This week: The Knicks get three games against teams ahead of them in their standings. Important not to overlook the Bucks tonight; a loss would let the Bucks clinch the two teams' tiebreaker.


9. Milwaukee Bucks (22-26)
Status: Outside but in play
Schedule: at Knicks, vs. Atlanta, at Cleveland, vs. Memphis
This week: A three-win week could put Milwaukee in the playoff picture as the eight-seed. Conversely, a three-loss week would put the Bucks' playoff propsects on life support.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-29)
Status: Counting down to the lottery
Schedule: at Philadelphia, vs. Detroit, vs. Milwaukee, at Knicks

11. Detroit Pistons (16-32)
Status: Counting down to the lottery
Schedule: at Washington, at Cleveland, at Chicago, vs Charlotte

12. Toronto Raptors (16-33)
Status: Counting down to the lottery
Schedule: vs. Orlando, vs. Denver, vs. Miami, vs. Washington

13. New Jersey Nets (16-34)
Status: Counting down to the lottery
Schedule: vs. Utah, vs. Indiana, at Golden State, at Sacramento

14. Wasington Wizards (11-37)
Status: Counting down to the lottery
Schedule: vs. Detroit, at Indiana, vs. Philadelphia, at Toronto

Eliminated

15. Charlotte Bobcats (7-39)

WEST

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (37-12)
*division leader
Status:
Fighting for No. 1 seed
Schedule: at Portland, at Lakers, vs. Chicago
This week: The No. 1 seed is big for Oklahoma City considering they match up unfavorably with the Spurs. Home game against Chicago is a possible (stress possible) Finals preview.

2. San Antonio Spurs (33-14)
*division leader
Status:
Fighting for No. 1 seed
Schedule: at Phoenix, at Sacramento, vs. Indiana
This week: This is the kind of week San Antonio likes: just three games! Even in cruise control, the Spurs have been scary dangerous. Could deliver the Suns a major blow Tuesday night.

3. Los Angeles Lakers (30-19)
*division leader
Status:
In divisional battle
Schedule: at Golden State, vs. Oklahoma City, vs. New Orleans, vs. Golden State
This week: The Lakers get three winnable games in a week they desperately need them. The Kobe benching Sunday night is a story line to keep an eye on this week.

4. Los Angeles Clippers (27-21)
Status: In divisional battle
Schedule: vs. New Orleans, vs. Phoenix, vs. Portland, vs. Utah
This week: The Clippers are in freefall mode, and are dangerously close to falling out of the Pacific Division race, and into the cluster of teams below them. 16-8 at home this year, four games at the Staples Center could be the remedy.

5. Dallas Mavericks (28-22)
Status: Fighting for playoff spot
Schedule: vs. Houston, at Miami, at Orlando
This week: Brutal week for the Mavericks with three potential playoff teams in four days. Losses on the road to Miami and Orlando could drop Dallas from fifth to eighth.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (26-21)
Status: Fighting for playoff spot
Schedule: vs. Minnesota, at Houston, at Milwaukee
This week: Why is it that Zach Randolph returns and the Grizz fall apart? Big week to figure out chemistry issues with the Wolves and Rockets on tap.

7. Utah Jazz (26-23)
Status: Fighting for playoff spot
Schedule: at New Jersey, at Boston, vs Sacramento, at Clippers
This week: Real possibility that the Jazz could walk away with four wins and move to the No. 4 spot in the West. Who would have thought that when they dropped to 15-18 on Feb. 28?

8. Houston Rockets (26-23)
Status: Fighting for playoff spot
Schedule: vs. Sacramento, at Dallas, vs. Memphis, vs. Indiana
This week: Unless Goran Dragic continues to play like an All-Star, it'll be tough to survive the last three games without Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry.


9. Denver Nuggets (26-23)
Status: Outside but in play
Schedule: at Chicago, at Toronto, at Charlotte, at Orlando
This week: Games three-through-six of a seven-game road trip. Denver needs wins in the middle two, with a win against the Bulls or Magic probably propelling them back to the top eight.

10. Phoenix Suns (25-24)
Status: Outside but in play
Schedule: vs. Spurs, at Clippers, vs. Hornets
This week: Suddenly, the Suns look like one of the favorites to make the postseason. A two-win week would push them to a season-best two games above-.500.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-26)
Status: Outside and not looking good
Schedule: at Memphis, at Charlotte, vs. Boston, at Portland
This week: Despite Kevin Love's efforts, Minnesota hasn't been able to survive without Ricky Rubio. The schedule is soft the rest of the way, but are there too many teams between the Wolves and the postseason?

12. Portland Trail Blazers (23-26)
Status: Outside and not looking good
Schedule: vs. Oklahoma City, vs. New Orleans, at Clippers, vs. Minnesota
This week: I'd classify the Blazers as being in "tank mode," but they are 3-3 in their last six with wins over the Bulls and Grizzlies. A 4-0 week isn't at all likely, but it would get Portland back on the cusp of the playoffs.

13. Golden State Warriors (20-27)
Status: Tank mode
Schedule: vs. Lakers, vs. New Orleans, vs. New Jersey, at Lakers
This week: Golden State is just 2-6 since improving to 18-21. It'll be a battle of teams vying for draft position when the Warriors take on the Hornets and Nets this week.

14. Sacramento Kings (17-31)
Status: Counting down to the lottery
Schedule: at Houston, vs. San Antonio, at Utah, vs. New Jersey

Eliminated

15. New Orleans Hornets (12-36)

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