Moore’s Eastern Conference Playoff Picture, Scenarios, Projections: Philly Makes Its Move, Magic Slip

Moore’s Eastern Conference Playoff Picture, Scenarios, Projections: Philly Makes Its Move, Magic Slip article feature image

Photo credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler

  • Who will make the 2018-19 NBA playoffs from the Eastern Conference?
  • Matt Moore runs through the complete playoff picture, including the current standings, potential scenarios and projections for where it will all land.

The NBA playoffs begin in 33 days. The season is down to fewer than 20 games for most teams. We are in crunch time.

Have a bad week? There goes home court. Have a bad two weeks? Your playoff spot might be in jeopardy.

This is when things get toughest, between the exhaustion, injuries and pressure. It’s go time.

Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference NBA playoff picture entering the games on Monday, March 11.

Magic numbers refer to the combination of wins and losses by the closest team in contention (and by extension, all subsequent teams) to secure a spot in question.

For example, if a team’s magic number is four for a playoff spot, they need four wins to clinch a playoff spot … or three wins and the ninth seed to lose one game … or two wins and the ninth seed to lose two games … or one win and the ninth seed to lose three games.

Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

1. Milwaukee Bucks (48-16)

Playoff spot: Clinched

Home court: The magic number is eight for home court in the first round, 12 for home court in the first two rounds (a top-two seed) and 16 for home court throughout the playoffs.

The Bucks are three up on the Raptors in the loss column and own the tiebreaker. The first round is obviously a lock. The second-round is basically a lock.

Considering that you have to expect every team past Toronto to have at least four more losses to finish the season, Milwaukee needs just four more for a top-two seed. That’s donezo.

The Bucks’ lead over the Raptors is considerable. Toronto would have to go on a fairly berserk run or Milwaukee would have to really fall off to open this up, but the Bucks did slip on this West coast road trip, opening the door a bit more.

That said, a pedestrian 8-7 finish for Milwaukee would necessitate an 11-4 finish from the Raptors to cough up homecourt.

So yeah, Milwaukee’s going to be the 1-seed.

2. Toronto Raptors (46-18)

Playoff spot: Clinched

Home court: Toronto’s magic number for home court in the first round is eight. That’s a lock. It’s 9 for the second round, and I’d go ahead and call that a lock, as well.

Toronto is going to win, at the very least, seven of its final 15. Plus, Indiana and Philadelphia lack the kind of gear to really make a run at the Raptors.

Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard

As stated above, the Bucks probably have a lead the Raptors can’t get past for the 1-seed.

Toronto is probably fine right there, by the way. The Raptors aren’t worried about going into Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference Finals, and there’s a decent chance they wind up with either Indiana, Brooklyn or Detroit in Round 2 — and that’s all preferable to whoever comes out of Boston-Philly.

Even if the Sixers secure the 3-seed, you have to think the Raptors feel good about winning four of seven. I’m a little more skittish on that matchup, though. Joel Embiid might give Toronto a harder time than the other East contenders.

3. Philadelphia 76ers (42-25)

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