We are into the final week of the season and with only a handful of games left for each team, the picture around the NBA standings has become a little bit clearer. The Raptors are no exception.
Here’s how the standings in the Eastern Conference look as of today:
The 1- and 2-seeds are virtual locks at this point. The Cavaliers, in winning last night, took a one-game lead over the Celtics and also took the tiebreaker in the process. Boston will have to overcome a two-game cushion in the last four games to overtake Cleveland. I’m going to bet on that not happening. We’re all spared the embarrassment of the worst first-seed ever being in our conference.
The Raptors have a half-game lead over the Wizards for the 3-seed, which in effect is 1.5 games because the Raptors own the tiebreaker. The Raptors have three games left: vs. Miami, @ NYK, @ CLE. The Wizards’ four remaining games are @ NYK, vs. Miami, @ Detroit, @ Miami. Essentially, if the Raptors finish 2-1 to end the year, the Wizards only overtake them if they finish 4-0. Here’s where Cleveland potentially clinching the 1-seed early becomes huge, because there’s now a good chance they don’t need to win that final game of the season against the Raptors.
Below that, the conference remains muddled. Milwaukee should be able to lock up the 5-seed considering the strength of their schedule and the up-and-down nature of everyone in the bottom half of playoff seeding.
Chicago has a dirt easy schedule that should hold them in good stead to get at least the 6-seed. Atlanta has a Boston, Cleveland, Cleveland stretch coming up that should drop them to 7th (and maybe lower). Indiana and Atlanta face one another on the last night of the season in a game that could have win-or-go-home implications.
The point I’m making is the top-5 in the conference are starting to look a little settled, while the bottom half is as muddled as ever. And the Raptors still do not know quite who their first round opponent will be.