The big question is not whether the Hawks will make the postseason, but where they will finish in the conference standings.
Entering Wednesday’s Eastern Conference matchup against the Bucks, the Hawks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot was six over the ninth-place 76ers. Any combination of Hawks wins and Sixers losses that equal six will clinch the team’s sixth consecutive postseason berth. The Hawks had 15 games remaining in the regular season, eight at home and seven on the road. Of the home opponents, only three had records over .500. Of the road opponents, five were over .500.
The Hawks’ magic number is less against the three other teams with a mathematical chance to overtake them. It is five against the Raptors, three against the Wizards and one against the Cavaliers. The Pistons cannot catch the Hawks. The Magic and Bobcats have already been eliminated from the playoffs.
After the Heat, the rest of the Eastern Conference is wide open. The Hawks can realistically finish anywhere from second to eighth.
Entering Wednesday, the Hawks were fifth in the standings. They were 4 1/2 games behind the second-place Pacers, three games behind the third-place Knicks and two behind the fourth-place Nets.
The Hawks led the Bulls and Celtics by just a half game for the next two spots. Each of those teams owns the tiebreaker against the Hawks. The Bucks were 2 1/2 games back in the eighth and final spot.
“Everybody is so bunched up,” coach Larry Drew said. “Milwaukee is only a few games behind us. It’s just that time of the year when you start watching the scoreboard. You start looking at remaining games, home versus on the road. You look at upcoming opponents, not only you, but the other teams you are battling with. All that starts to take shape within the last two to three weeks.”
With an NBA schedule of 11 games Wednesday, every team that can affect the Hawks’ position except the Bulls were in action.
Etc.: Jeremy Tyler, who played one game with the Hawks before being waived March 6, was claimed by the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA Development League this week. Tyler was acquired from Golden State at the NBA trade deadline for draft considerations in a move to help the Warriors get under the salary cap. In his one game with the Hawks, Tyler had three rebounds in five minutes. … Al Horford sported a Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic cap Wednesday morning, a day after his native country won the international event by defeating Puerto Rico. … Zaza Pachulia remains out indefinitely with a sore right Achilles. He missed his 10th consecutive game Wednesday. It was also the 16th game in the past 27 the center has been out with the injury.