Saturday, March 2, 2024

NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture: Knicks jump back to No. 5; Bucks first to clinch top-six seed

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The New York Knicks rallied past the Blazers on Tuesday. Combined with Brooklyn’s loss to Oklahoma City, the Knicks move back into the East’s No. 5 seed. 

The Milwaukee Bucks have won 21 of their last 23. The most recent victory came at Phoenix on Tuesday, and it clinched a playoff spot for the Bucks — the first team to do so. 

Below is a comprehensive snapshot of where things stand in the Eastern Conference playoff and play-in races entering play on Wednesday. This post will update daily throughout the remainder of the regular season or until all seeds are clinched. 

Reminder on how the play-in tournament works: No. 7 plays No. 8 and No. 9 plays No. 10. The winner of the 7-8 game gets the No. 7 seed, while the loser plays the winner of the 9-10 game for the  No. 8 seed. 

READ: Western Conference playoff picture

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times to produce the most unbiased and precise projections imaginable.

The Bucks are the first team to clinch at least a top-six seed with their win over Phoenix on Tuesday. 

  • Projected seed: 1
  • Current first-round matchup: TBD
  • Tiebreaker vs. Boston: Tied 1-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Philadelphia: Sixers lead 2-1 with one to play

Boston lost to the Rockets on Monday and now trails Milwaukee by three in the loss column with one matchup remaining. The Celtics are tied in the loss column with No. 3 Philly with the tiebreaker secured. 

  • Projected seed: 2
  • Current first-round matchup: Winner of Heat/Hawks play-in
  • Tiebreaker vs. Milwaukee: Tied 1-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Philadelphia: Boston clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Cleveland: Cavs clinched

The Sixers are tied with No. 2 Boston in the loss column. Boston has the tiebreaker. 

  • Projected seed: 3
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. Brooklyn
  • Tiebreaker vs. Milwaukee: Tied 1-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Philadelphia: Boston clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Cleveland: Cavs lead 2-1 with one to play

The Cavs hold a three-loss lead over the No. 5 Knicks and No. 6 Nets, with two head-to-head matchups left against each. 

  • Projected seed: 4
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. New York
  • Tiebreaker vs. Boston: Cavs clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Philadelphia: Cavs lead 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. New York: Knicks lead 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Brooklyn: Nets lead 1-0 with two to play

5. New York Knicks (41-30)

In their quest to stay above the play-in line, the Knicks hold a three-loss lead over the No. 7 Heat with two head-to-head matchups remaining. 

  • Projected seed: 5
  • Current first-round matchup: at Cleveland
  • Tiebreaker vs. Cleveland: Knicks lead 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Brooklyn: Knicks currently own via division win percentage
  • Tiebreaker vs. Miami: Knicks lead 2-0 with two to play

6. Brooklyn Nets (39-30)

Brooklyn is three losses up on No. 7 Miami with two head-to-head matchups remaining. They’re in the driver’s seat to stay above the play-in line. 

  • Projected seed: 6
  • Current first-round matchup: at Philadelphia
  • Tiebreaker vs. Cleveland: Nets lead 1-0 with two to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. New York: Knicks currently own via division win percentage
  • Tiebreaker vs. Miami: Nets lead 2-0 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Atlanta: Nets lead 2-1 with one to play

PLAY-IN TOURNAMENT

7. Miami Heat (37-33)

Miami trails No. 5 New York and No. 6 Brooklyn by three in the loss column, with two matchups remaining against each. They lead the No. 8 Hawks by an effective three games with the tiebreaker secured. 

  • Projected seed: 7
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. Hawks (play-in)
  • Tiebreaker vs. New York: Knicks lead 2-0 with two to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Brooklyn: Nets lead 2-0 with two to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Atlanta: Miami clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. TorontoRaptors lead 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Washington: Miami leads 2-1 with one to play

8. Atlanta Hawks (34-35)

Atlanta is an effective three games back of No. 7 Miami, which owns the tiebreaker. 

  • Projected seed: 8
  • Current first-round matchup: at Miami (Play-in)
  • Tiebreaker vs. Brooklyn: Nets lead 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Miami: Heat clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Toronto: Atlanta clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Washington: Atlanta leads 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Chicago: Bulls lead 2-1 with one to play

9. Toronto Raptors (33-36)

Toronto is tied in the loss column with the No. 11 Bulls with the tiebreaker secured and is one loss up on the No. 10 Wizards

  • Projected seed: 11
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. Wizards (Play-in)
  • Tiebreaker vs. Miami: Raptors lead 2-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Atlanta: Hawks clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Washington: Tied 1-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Indiana: Pacers clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Chicago: Raptors clinched

10. Washington Wizards (32-37)

The Wizards, technically, are back in the play-in by win percentage, but they actually trail No. 10 Chicago by one in the loss column. 

  • Projected seed: 9
  • Current first-round matchup: at Raptors (Play-in)
  • Tiebreaker vs. Toronto: Tied 1-1 with one to play
  • Tiebreaker vs. Indiana: Pacers currently own via conference win percentage
  • Tiebreaker vs. Chicago: Bulls currently own via conference win percentage

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

11. Chicago Bulls (31-36)

The Bulls actually lead the No. 10 Wizards by one in the loss column, but for now, they see their name below the play-in line according to the current win percentage. 

  • Projected seed: 10
  • Tiebreaker vs. Toronto: Raptors clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Washington: Bulls currently own via conference win percentage
  • Tiebreaker vs. Indiana: Pacers clinched

12. Indiana Pacers (31-38)

  • Projected seed: Lottery
  • Tiebreaker vs. Toronto: Pacers clinched
  • Tiebreaker vs. Washington: Pacers currently own via conference win percentage
  • Tiebreaker vs. Chicago: Pacers clinched

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