New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony reacts after making a three-point shot against Boston Celtics during their NBA game in New York

Breaking down the seeding chase in the Eastern Conference

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Unlike their friends in the West, there really is no playoff chase in the East.

The top eight teams are pretty much locked in, starting with Miami as the one seed down to the Bucks, the current eight seed. The Sixers are six games back of the Bucks for that final playoff spot, so while it is mathematically possible Philly makes the playoffs it’s more likely they’ll just keep grumbling about Andrew Bynum and thinking about the lottery.

What’s interesting in the East is the struggle for seeding during the final couple weeks of the regular season.

Top three seeds. Miami has the top spot sewn up, but the battle for the two-seed is a good one.

The Pacers technically have a half-game lead on the Knicks, but Indiana has also played three more games. The Knicks have one less loss as of right now. In addition, both teams are hot right now — New York has won eight in a row, Indiana eight of nine.

The problem for the Knicks is the Pacers have the easier schedule from here on out. Indiana has seven games left, four at home with four against playoff teams. The Knicks have 10 games left, six on the road and seven against playoff teams. The Pacers could essentially be the team posting a good number in the clubhouse and forcing the Knicks to birdie the last hole to beat it. One other question to consider in this fight: Is the three seed better off because they likely the Bulls or Hawks in the first round while the two seed likely gets the Celtics?

This Knicks/Pacers struggle could come down to one game — Sunday, April 14, the Pacers at the Knicks. Head to head. The Pacers have won two of the previous three meetings, win this one and they get the tiebreak. Lose and it and the tiebreak comes down to better record against teams in their conference (currently the Pacers have that edge 30-13 to 30-16).

Four, five, six seeds. The Nets, Hawks and Bulls at all within 1.5 games of each other for the three middle seeds. There is motivation here to get the four seed and the home court in the first round. Also, there is motivation to be at least the five seed — all three of these teams are relatively even and have a legitimate shot to advance if they face each other in the four/five playoff matchup. However, fall to six and you get a tougher task against a Knicks or Pacers.

Seven, eight seed. This is really the battle to avoid the Heat in the first round. Currently the Bucks are 1.5 games back of the Celtics for the seven seed (and no easy matchup, but better than the Heat).

The good news for Boston is they have an easier schedule from here on out — five of their eight games are at home and only three are against playoff teams. The Bucks have six of nine on the road and have five playoff teams. Brian Robb breaks it down in great detail at CelticsHub, but looking at the numbers you’d think the Celtics should hang on to that last spot. Then again, watching them play without Kevin Garnett to anchor their defense, this race  feels a lot more like a toss up.

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.

Iman Shumpert injures hand while missing open dunk (video)

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Plenty went right for the Cavaliers in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but there were a few snags.

LeBron James and his teammates repeatedly failed the water-bottle challenge in the closing moments (though Kyrie Irving eventually nailed it).

Kevin Love‘s nose malfunctioned.

And Iman Shumpert injured his hand while missing an open dunk.

If Shumpert was faking as an excuse for missing, he sold it hard. Defending 4-on-5 on the other end, Cleveland ceded a 3-pointer. Then, Shumpert remained hunched over while the Cavs brought the ball up-court. It seems Shumpert might have been popping back in a dislocated finger, which jibes with him staying in the game – and shows his toughness.

But it also doesn’t erase the shame of hurting yourself while missing an open dunk.

Gregg Popovich calls coaching Tim Duncan-less Spurs a ‘refreshing’ and ‘fun’ challenge

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)–  For so many years, the San Antonio Spurs have been defined by their consistency, an unprecedented level of stability that has brought five championships and established the organization as a model franchise in professional sports.

The colors don’t change. The coach doesn’t change. The core never changed.

After 20 years and those five titles, change has finally come to San Antonio.

Tim Duncan, the tone setter from the moment he was drafted in 1997, retired last summer. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken reduced roles this season, and the Spurs brought in seven new faces as part of a rare roster shuffle as they try to retool around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It’s been at the same time a challenge and a refreshing sort of situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team is changing personnel-wise and where the ball goes and a few different players so we have to do things a little bit differently. There’s a give and take, strategy wise, to fit the group. It’s been a lot of fun. Watching some of the young guys get minutes and develop has been fun.”

Fun because while the faces have changed, the results have not. The Spurs (18-4) have navigated the bumps in the road that come with unfamiliarity and have the second-best record in the league, tied the star-studded Golden State Warriors (18-3) in the win column. They have started the season 13-0 on the road and can match last year’s Warriors for the best road start in league history with a win in Chicago on Thursday night.

It hasn’t always been pretty for these Spurs. They’re not the same ruthless, precise machine that steamrolled the league during championship runs. They have had to muddle through things, overcome mistakes and struggle while they get acclimated to one another.

Newcomers like six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, steady veteran David Lee, Argentinian point guard Nico Laprovittola and shot-blocking center Dewayne Dedmon have had to work hard to integrate into a culture that is as enduring as any.

“You could see it in our games. Sometimes our offense is stagnant, our defense isn’t moving well or in our help positions,” Leonard said. “We have a big playbook on the offensive end. It’s just hard to learn it. It was hard for me to learn it. I didn’t get it down until probably my second or third year. We’ve just got to keep giving a consistent effort and being into the game and into our playbook and just keep moving from there.”

The result has been a team that tends to start slow, fall behind and then gradually digs its heels in. They are 5-4 at home, where they only lost once all of last season. They’ve lost to the Magic at home, were thumped by the Clippers and have not recaptured the breathtaking form they showed in a 29-point win at Golden State on opening night. But the wins keep coming.

“I think the first eight to 10 games was the coaching staff trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to play and there were a lot of changes, a lot of trying what works best,” said Gasol, who signed as a free agent this summer. “But now I think there’s more consistency, there’s more defined lineups. Guys know when to come in, when they’re going to play and what’s expected of them.”

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 14 games, and Popovich has leaned on his core more than he has in years to get them off to a good start. Leonard and Aldridge both average more than 33 minutes per game, the first time San Antonio has had two players averaging that much playing time since 2008-09.

“It’s been interesting to see how the team develops and comes together and who the leaders will be without Timmy being that overriding factor for so long,” Popovich said.

Leonard, for years the ultra-quiet storm trooper of the Spurs army, has been much more vocal this season. Gasol’s personality and approach have been a perfect fit as most expected and Ginobili and Parker are still there to help filled the void left by Duncan’s retirement.

And little by little, the new guys are getting up to speed.

“They’ve done a great job of making it easy for us and for Pop to throw them into the fire and trust them to know the system,” Green said. “We’ll continue to help them and they will continue to be sponges and absorb it.”

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!