Raptors, Stay Away From the Hairy Chest
“First is the worst, second is the best, third is the nerd with the hairy chest.”
Every time the Raptors lose in this final quadrant of the season, secretly, I giggle to myself. While many Raptors fans undoubtedly aspire for the team to win each and every remaining contest, I’m hoping for a few Ls here and there.
In case you haven’t heard, the Eastern Conference playoffs are no joke.
As currently situated, the Raptors are 2.5 games below the Bucks for the #2 seed in the loaded, top-heavy Eastern Conference, and 5.0 games above the Indiana Pacers. With 18 games remaining, it is looking extremely likely that The North will settle into the 2nd seed in the East playoff dogfight.
That is exactly where the Raptors want to be.
The 4/5 First Round of Death
Taking a quick look at the rest of the Eastern Conference contenders, the first round, 4/5-seed battle looks like must-see tv. As of right now, the Sixers are a 0.5 game under Indiana for the 4-seed. The Celtics are 1.5 games under Philly for the 5-seed, and Detroit is 6.0 games under Boston. So barring nuclear collapse, Boston can do no worse than the 5-seed in its disappointing season.
So shoddy analysis dictates that the Philadelphia 76ers could face the Boston Celtics in Round 1. That matchup would ostensibly eliminate one of the main Finals contenders in the very first round. Currently, the margin between Indiana, Philly, and Boston is so slim (only 3.0 games separate all three teams). Obviously, it’s too early to reliably determine the playoff order, but there is a VERY GOOD chance (2/3 odds to be exact) that the Toronto Raptors could make it to the Eastern Conference Finals without having to face Boston OR Philadelphia. With the top four teams largely viewed as Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia, this is not an insignificant development.
The Pacers Are the Thing Wherein I’ll Catch the Conscience of the King
It all depends on just how good this Indiana team is.
If the Pacers’ defense-first, Oladipo-less brand of basketball is good enough to slide into the 3-seed, the Raptors’ path to the NBA Finals is ideal. That means Toronto would have two of either Boston, Philadelphia or MILWAUKEE eliminated before having to play ANY of them!
It’s obviously much murkier if Indiana falls, but the 2-seed certainly seems to be ideal here. Home-court advantage against the 6-seed and 3-seed gives the Raptors two rounds of advantage. If Milwaukee gets eliminated before the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto would have the home-court advantage there too.
Since Toronto is the #2 seed in the ENTIRE NBA, it’s also conceivable that Toronto could get to the NBA Finals with HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE THERE TOO. Therefore, Raptors fans should start rooting for Indiana. The better the Pacers perform down the home stretch, the easier Toronto’s path to the NBA Finals becomes.
Regardless of how the final standings play out, one thing is clear — NBA playoff season has started. Buckle up.
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