Moore’s Eastern Conference Playoff Picture, Scenarios, Projections: The 5 Locks, Then Everyone Else
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo
- 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 40 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 Tuesday, March 5.
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.
Milwaukee could go 12-6 — a 67% win rate vs. the Bucks’ 75% win rate for the season — and clinch even if the Pacers (and Raptors) won out.
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.
Another two-game losing streak for the Bucks, when they lost back-to-back games for the first time all season on Monday, still gives them the edge via tiebreaker. Put another way: A really shaky 10-8 finish for the Bucks would require the Raptors to go at least 13-5 to get the 1-seed.
So yeah, Milwaukee’s going to be the 1-seed.
2. Toronto Raptors (46-18)
Playoff spot: The Raptors’ magic number is two. They’ll have locked a playoff spot by the end of the week.
Home court: Toronto’s magic number for home court in the first round is 10. That’s a lock. It’s 13 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, nine of its final 18 games. Plus, Indiana and Philadelphia lack the kind of gear to really make a run at the Raptors.
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.