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Standings Watch: The Raptors are still on top, but who lurks below?

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Toronto is riding a five game win streak, but the rest of the Eastern Conference is still very much undecided.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It is incredible to consider how quickly we’ve become inured to the idea of the Raptors as the East’s number one seed. This is a thing that has never happened before in the history of the franchise; in fact, it seemed completely inconceivable as recently as five, maybe three, years ago. Now? We don’t even bat an eye. My, how times have changed.

Toronto is not guaranteed the number one spot though. They remain just two games up on the Boston Celtics, who, if nothing else, have been known to try hard in the face of (perhaps) insurmountable odds. Did you hear they got Marcus Smart back recently? Maybe that will turn the tide for them. [bemused chuckling]

Regardless, here are how the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings look today, on March 7, 2018. The Raptors, as promised by the headline, are on top with a 46-17 record.

The Standings

The Takeaways

The bottom half of this conference really is quite a mess, isn’t it? Ah yes, there was once a time when the Raptors were scratching and clawing just to be considered as one of the teams in the 7th or 8th seed. But now, hah, we can sit here and write about the various challengers down there from atop our wondrous throne in the North, and just throw back our heads and laugh.

Well, actually, don’t laugh too hard. Somewhat inexplicably, the Raptors find themselves staring down a weird combination of the Sixers, Bucks, and Heat all grappling for the conference’s last three seeds. The poor Pistons, who Toronto would have surely walloped, are definitely out. And the Pacers and Wizards appear locked into their 4-and-5 seed dance, regardless of the talent levels involved.

Maybe things will shift dramatically again come next week? We can... well, let’s get to the next section.

The Hope

Briefly this week the Bucks hit bottom and found themselves in the conference’s eighth seed. For as easily as Raptors fans have become used to the idea of Toronto as the East’s best team, we are deeply disturbed by the prospect of playing an absolutely insane with rage Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round. Without Jason Kidd around to out-think himself, the Bucks are a danger to everyone around them.

Is Milwaukee a beatable team? Sure! They’ve lost 31 games and hover just three games above .500. But also: the Raptors would not like to see them. Let Giannis be Boston’s problem, or even, Cleveland’s. The hope continues to be: just leave Toronto alone.