Only one night is left in the NBA season and yet just one playoff matchup is set in the East. That said, things are a little more settled in this conference than out West, and we have an idea how this likely shakes out… then again, nothing as shook out the way we expected in the East this season. So why should it now?
Here is how the East playoffs stand heading into the final night of the NBA season.
No. 1 seed: The Atlanta Hawks have officially locked up the top spot. They have home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
No. 2 seed: The Cleveland Cavaliers’ have locked up the two seed and will face the Boston Celtics in the first round. Maybe the better way to phrase that is they will tune up for the playoffs against Boston.
No. 3-4 seeds: Thanks to Jae Crowder’s leaning, contested, is-that-really-the-shot-you-want, game winner that put the Celtics in the playoffs, the Bulls control their own destiny for the postseason. With that Toronto loss to Boston, Chicago is one game ahead of Toronto for the three seed in the East — beat Atlanta (likely to be resting guys) Wednesday and Chicago finishes the three seed, Toronto the four. However, if the Hawks beat the Bulls, and the Raptors knock off slumping Charlotte (as expected), the Raptors would get the three seed. It’s all in the Bulls’ hands (or hooves, as the case may be).
No. 5 seed: The Washington Wizards are now locked in here and will start the playoffs on the road. Before the season, we expected more out of this group. A first round playoff win helps us look past that.
No. 6 seed: The Milwaukee Bucks locked up the six seed. That’s quite an accomplishment for a team most thought was lottery bound before the season.
No. 7 seed: With its dramatic win Tuesday, the Celtics have locked this spot up. Good on them. Brad Stevens deserves a lot of credit for building a selfless team in Boston. One where they share the ball, cut hard and move off the ball, and play with an energy that is fun to watch. The Celtics did not get here on pure talent — a number of teams they beat out to make the playoffs have more raw talent — but rather on how well they used what they have. They run a beautiful, modern offense.
No. 8 seed: It’s pretty simple for Indiana — beat Memphis and you’re in as the eight seed. Despite all the injuries and the rough season, Indiana would get a ticket to the dance. However, Memphis needs this win, too (their only hope of getting the five seed out West is a win and some help). If the Pacers lose, the Nets can be in if they beat the Magic. And Brooklyn should beat Orlando. Either of these teams will barely be a speed bump for the Hawks in the first round, but both would like to get an invite to the prom at least.