The playoff race in the Eastern Conference is not nearly as hotly contested as that in the West, but with a fairly clear divide between the top five teams and the next five or six (depending on how you feel about the Wizards), there will be an interesting race for the final three spots.
Entering Sunday, the Pistons held down the eighth spot with a 1.5 game lead over the Magic and Nets, but have been steadily slipping over the course of a miserable December. Detroit was visiting Orlando on Sunday afternoon in a game that could be fairly meaningful in the fight for postseason position.
Both teams made some questionable decisions in the closing seconds, including the Magic fouling Reggie Bullock on a three-pointer when they held a three-point lead with 2.5 seconds to play. Bullock calmly knocked down all three of his free throws to tie the game. Orlando called a timeout to advance the ball and drew up a play for Evan Fournier, who shook free of an overly aggressive Stanley Johnson and hit a floater to beat the buzzer and the late contest of Andre Drummond.
The win pulls Orlando to within a half game of Detroit (and a half game ahead of Brooklyn) and continues their surprising season as a contender to reach the playoffs in the East. The teams vying for the final few spots in the East aren’t quite as interesting as the West, but it does appear that, at least for now, there will be at least a five team race for those final three positions — with whatever group making it in being heavy favorites in their first round series.