Entering Sunday’s final day of the regular season, none of the Eastern Conference first round playoff matchups were known. The early window of games solidified the play-in picture, with Cavs-Nets determining the 7 seed, while Hornets-Hawks will play for the chance to win the 8-seed, but the evening window would determine the rest of the seeding.
The Miami Heat were locked into the 1-seed, while Toronto was guaranteed the 5-seed and Chicago the 6-seed coming into the day, but Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia all had games left to determine their first round matchups. Milwaukee rested everyone and got blown out by Cleveland early on Sunday, meaning Boston and Philadelphia would determine what would happen from 2-4 in the East.
The Sixers rested Joel Embiid and James Harden against Detroit, but still had reason to try and win as they could earn the 3-seed and avoid Toronto in the first round if they won and Boston lost. However, with the Celtics playing a Memphis team resting most everyone (although that hasn’t guaranteed opponents wins this season), Boston took a double-digit first half lead and never looked back in a blowout win over the Grizzlies.
As such, the Eastern Conference playoff picture is now set and we know two of the first round series, with this week’s play-in tournament determining the rest.
1. Miami Heat vs. 8. Winner of Friday’s play-in game (loser of CLE/BKN vs. winner of CHA/ATL)
2. Boston Celtics vs. 7. Brooklyn Nets OR Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Milwaukee Bucks vs. 6. Chicago Bulls
4. Philadelphia 76ers vs. 5. Toronto Raptors
The Sixers and Raptors squaring off is particularly interesting, given Matisse Thybulle apparently won’t be available for road games in Toronto due to Canada’s vaccine requirement, as is the potential for a Celtics-Nets series if Brooklyn gets by Cleveland on Tuesday. We’ll know the full schedule on Friday after the final play-in game, but at least for now Milwaukee, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Toronto can begin their full preparations for the first round.