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NBA

Miami Heat blown 20-point lead, Charlotte Hornets road win affects Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

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Blake Griffin, Dwyane Wade, Kemba Walker [NBA Getty Images]

The fight for the final couple playoff spots in the Eastern Conference are up for grabs and that race got even closer after Saturday's results.

Starting with the Charlotte Hornets, they entered the day trailing the Miami Heat by 2.0 games for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

You can only worry about what you can control and the Hornets did just that. They went into Washington, D.C. and picked up a much needed road win over the Wizards despite a 40-point effort from Bradley Beal.

Kemba Walker scored 28 with help from Jeremy Lamb (18 points) and Tony Parker (16 points) to remain in the battle for that final playoff spot. The Hornets' playoff chances increased from 18.0 percent to 20.0 percent per FiveThiryEight's playoff prediction model but things got more interesting as the day went on.

At the time of the final buzzer in D.C., the Miami Heat held a commanding 20-point lead at halftime over the first place Milwaukee Bucks. It was looking like the Heat were going to pick up a crucial home win over the best team in the NBA, but they fell apart in the second half.

Miami scored just 36 points in the final two quarters while allowing the Bucks to score 37 in the third quarter alone. The Bucks erupted for 71 points in the second half to complete a 20-point comeback which tightened the race for the final spot.

Take a look at how the playoff hopeful percentages changed before and after the Heat's blown lead.

Playoff Predictions per FiveThirtyEight
Team Before Saturday's games After the Hornets' road win After the Heat's loss Games back from No. 8 seed
8. Heat 35% 35% 30% -
Magic 58% 58% 59% 1.0
Hornets 18% 20% 22% 1.0

The Heat saw their playoff chances diminish by five percent while the Hornets' hopes grew four percent throughout the day.

The model favours the Magic, who have a top-10 easiest schedule remaining in the NBA, while both the Heat and Hornets have two of the hardest schedules remaining.

But it wasn't just the bottom that saw change. With the Detroit Pistons decisive win over the Los Angeles Lakers, they have moved past the Brooklyn Nets to overtake the No. 6 seed.

That changes the projected first round matchups as the Pistons are now matched up with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Raptors are lined up with the Nets.

MORE: 76ers move into third seed with win over Kings

The Pistons now have a 9-3 record since the All-Star break and have emerged as a certified playoff team in the East. In fact, according to inpredictable's projected NBA seeding, they now have a 54% chance to earn the No. 6 seed at the end of the season.

Most teams have anywhere from 12 to 14 games remaining so there is still plenty of time for all of this to change, but things are slowly starting to take shape in the East.

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