Eastern Conference playoff matchups are set, Bulls get the five seed after beating Wizards

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There were still a couple of playoff positions in play on the final night of the regular season in the Eastern Conference, but the Bulls made sure that they ended up with the more advantageous first round matchup.

By taking care of the Wizards 95-92, Chicago locked up the five seed in the East, and a first round date with the Brooklyn Nets in a series which will begin on Saturday.

It wasn’t easy for the Bulls, however, and given the way their entire season has gone, it seemed fitting that they’d struggle in this one.

Chicago got out to a lead of as many as 21 points in the first quarter, before giving back just about all of it in the second and waiting until the game’s final few possessions to clinch the victory.

The win was meaningful for the Bulls, because it allowed them to avoid a much tougher first round matchup with the Pacers, who would have been the opponent had they fallen to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.

The rest of the playoff matchups in the East are now official, as well.

The Heat will face the Bucks in the one-eight matchup, but we’ve known that for a few days now. The defending champs will open their title defense by hosting Game 1 on Sunday.

The Knicks will meet the Celtics in the postseason, which on paper may be the best and most intriguing first round matchup in the East.

New York will host Boston for Game 1 of their series at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The Pacers will face the Hawks in the three-six matchup, and that series will open in Indiana on Sunday.

Chicago’s win ensures them a winnable matchup against the Nets in the four-five matchup, but they’ll open on the road in Brooklyn. The good news for the Bulls is that Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Marco Belinelli all returned for limited minutes in the season finale on Wednesday, which means they should be available to play without restrictions once the playoffs begin on Saturday.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.

Report: ‘Tremendous concern’ for Jeremy Lin’s knee injury

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The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?

Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:

If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.

The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.

It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.