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2012 NBA standings: Celtics second behind pace-setting Knicks

The Boston Celtics have creeped into a tie for second place in the Atlantic Division, although the New York Knicks have pulled out to a sizable lead in the early going.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics have won two straight to put them in second in the Atlantic Division, although its still neck-and-neck-and-neck between them, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Philadelphia 76ers.

The even level of play between those three teams thus far this year is best captured by the C's weekend home-and-home with the Sixers, with the first game going to overtime in a Celtics loss on the road and the second a Boston win at home. Two games were played, and no difference was made in the standings. The Sixers entered Wednesday's play a half a game up on Brooklyn and Boston, but they lost to the Chicago Bulls while the Celtics beat the Dallas Mavericks in a gutty double-overtime game to move past the Sixers in the standings. Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the Toronto Raptors to keep pace with Boston.

Where they stay in the standings at this point in the year means little: if all three teams can remain above .500, which they are, they'll likely make the playoffs. However, if they want to make a run at the division, they might have to do it sooner rather than later: just about a quarter of the way into the season, the New York Knicks have a four-game lead. The Eastern Conference leaders show no signs of slowing, having won seven of their last eight, and its not for weak level of competition either, as they beat the Miami Heat convincingly without Carmelo Anthony last week.

Here's a look at the full conference standings:

Eastern Standings

New York Knicks 21 16-5 .762
Miami Heat 20 14-6 .700
Atlanta Hawks 19 13-6 .684
Chicago Bulls 21 12-9 .571
Brooklyn Nets 21 12-9 .571
Boston Celtics 21 12-9 .571
Milwaukee Bucks 20 11-9 .550
Philadelphia 76ers 22 12-10 .545
Indiana Pacers 22 11-11 .500
Orlando Magic 21 8-13 .381
Charlotte Bobcats 21 7-14 .333
Detroit Pistons 24 7-17 .292
Cleveland Cavaliers 23 5-18 .217
Toronto Raptors 23 4-19 .174
Washington Wizards 19 3-16 .158