The Toronto Raptors have Saturday night off, but it’s an important evening in terms of NBA seeding scenarios. Almost every team still relevant in the Eastern Conference except for Toronto and Cleveland is in action, and the Raptors could have a more clear picture of their playoff bracket by the time they tip off against the New York Knicks on Sunday morning.
We’re going to make this round-up a regular pre-game news & note feature the rest of the way, and maybe even introduce it on non-game days:
- 1-2 seed: Cleveland is off, Boston visits Charlotte. The Cavs beating Boston on Wednesday was huge, and the Celtics chasing it with a loss to Atlanta was even bigger. The Cavs gave some of that back by losing to the Hawks on Friday, though, and their lead is now just a game (they own the tiebreaker, though). The Raptors finishing second is still quite a long-shot even with the tiebreaker against Boston, and it’ll require Boston to close out very poorly. (Cleveland has an 83-percent chance at the one seed,per Inpredictable’s model.)
- Want Toronto in the two-seed? They have to go 2-0 with Boston going 1-2, or 1-1 with Boston going 0-3.
- The Raptors can’t finish first (they could tie Cleveland, but the Cavs own the tiebreaker).
- 3-4 seed: Toronto is off, Washington hosts Miami. The Raptors control their destiny here as far as the three-seed goes, with a half-game lead and the tiebreaker. By beating Miami on Friday, the Raptors may have made them even more desperate as they play two of their last three against Washington. There are still a lot of potential scenarios to sort through, but if the three-seed is your preference (and it probably should be, if Cleveland holds on to number one), Washington losing here would be good. (Toronto has a 72-percent chance of finishing third, per Inpredictable.)
- Toronto gets the 3-seed if they win out, if they go 1-1 and Washington goes 2-1 or worse, or if they go 0-2 and Washington goes 1-2 or worse.
- The Raptors can’t finish worse than fourth.
- 5-6 seed: Atlanta is off, Milwaukee visits Philadelphia. The Bucks have a chance to pull back within a half-game of the Hawks here, a huge consideration for their five-seed push after Atlanta won a perceived loss last night. The five-six battle has probably become the most important for the Raptors to keep an eye on, and contrary to what the Atlanta broadcast would tell you, the Hawks are probably a better matchup for the Raptors, so root for a T.J. McConnell-fuelled upset here if you’d like. (Atlanta has a 75-percent chance of finishing fifth. Milwaukee has a 58-percent chance at the six-seed, per Inpredictable.)
- The teams in the group below could still move into the five-six range. There are too many scenarios to go through them all, but Atlanta and Milwaukee control their own fates with the small cushion.
- 7-9 seeds: Chicago visits Brooklyn, Indiana visits Orlando, and Miami visits Washington. This is a massive night for this trio, with a potential but three-way tie looming heading into the final days of the series. Indiana is the odd team out in that scenario, but their schedule is a little easier than Miami’s. Chicago would really have to choke against Nets-Magic-Nets to not make it in at this point. (Miami has just a 24-percent chance of making the playoffs. Indiana has a 84-percent chance of getting in. Chicago has a 96-percent chance.)
- 10-11 seeds: Charlotte and Detroit are all but mathematically eliminated.
- Other relevant games: The Raptors have a draft pick to watch out for, too, and it will almost certainly fall in the 22-24 range. The Raptors get the more favorable of their pick and the Clippers’, and both teams are likely to finish in the 22-25 range. Keep an eye on the Clippers (at San Antonio), Wizards (vs. Miami), and Jazz (at Portland). Really, just root for the Clippers to do the worst of that group and Toronto will pick 22nd.
As for the Raptors perspective, they’re off but Raptors 905 tip off on NBA TV Canada and Facebook Live at 7:30 for Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Canton Charge. The New Orleans Pelicans did the 905 a major disservice plucking Axel Toupane today, but the organization is thrilled he’s getting another chance. It’s well-deserved and, to be honest, overdue.