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East Playoff Picture: It’s Celtics and Everyone Else

The NBA regular season ends in two Sundays. Then it gets really fun. There’s plenty left to be decided in terms of playoff seedings, much of which will impact your wagers in the next 10 days or so. So let’s take a look at the race in the Eastern Conference in this NBA basketball update, with a look at the scenario surrounding each of the top six teams (those not in a play-in).


East Playoff Picture: It’s Celtics and Everyone Else
Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics/Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images/AFP

Boston Celtics (1st place)

The Celtics clinched the No. 1 seed several days ago and they’re now in a balancing act. Keep guys active but not too active. Get rest when you can, but stay sharp. Keep figuring out how to execute in clutch moments, but don’t overdo it.

For those of you betting online at BetUS sportsbook, make sure to visit the Celtics’ injury report before each and every remaining affair. Several key players – if not all of them – will be put on there with a random tweak or strain, just to get them off their legs a bit.

On the flip side, if you have room for some player props on your NBA bet slip, perhaps find some value on the lesser players on the roster. Guys like Payton Pritchard or Luke Kornet could have big nights if the team wants to lean on the backups.

Remaining schedule: Starting Wednesday night vs Oklahoma City, six of Boston’s last seven games are at home, where it is 32-3.



Milwaukee Bucks (2nd place, 12 games out)

A loss at Washington on Tuesday just gets thrown on the ever-growing pile of head-scratching setbacks for this somewhat underwhelming team. The Bucks will probably finish with their most losses since 2017-18, not the result many wanted/expected when Damian Lillard was brought in.

Lillard has missed the last two games with a groin issue. Wednesday completes a back-to-back for the Bucks, so he might’ve just been sitting out the front end in order to play the back end vs Memphis to begin a five-game homestand.

Milwaukee, which is +300 to win the East at the sportsbook, enters that one with a 1½-game lead over Cleveland for the No. 2 seed.

Remaining schedule: It starts easy with home dates against Memphis and Toronto, but the final five are against the Knicks, Celtics, Magic, Thunder and Magic again. Four of those five teams will have something to play for in the standings and the one that doesn’t is the best in the league.


Cleveland Cavaliers (3rd, 13½ games out)

Catching Milwaukee remains a priority, but like a lot of teams out there (maybe more than others), Cleveland has to balance its physical situation. Donovan Mitchell had two lackluster games after returning from injury and then sat out Tuesday’s game at Utah, even with a day of rest.

If you’re wondering how much of a difference jumping up one spot might mean for a team like the Cavaliers, consider these numbers. Second seeds have won twice as many NBA titles (16-8) than third seeds, and they’ve made 39 Finals appearances compared to 16 for third seeds.

Orlando and New York sit 1½ games back.

Remaining schedule: Three more on the road (at Phoenix, at Lakers, at Clippers) before a relatively “easy” three-game homestand to end it for Cleveland, which is +1400 in Las Vegas NBA odds to win the East.


Orlando Magic (4th, 15 games out)

Nobody really talks about the Magic, a defensive squad that has come together rather nicely as the season has gone on. Consider that as late as Jan. 26, Orlando was in eighth place in the East – as close to ninth as it was to seventh – and 2½ games outside of a coveted top six spot.

Now they’re threatening Cleveland for third place and with two games left against the Bucks it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Magic – a 34-win team a season ago – could be the second seed behind the Celtics. That might be an indictment on the lack of strength in the East as much as anything, but it’s no small accomplishment for Orlando.

Remaining schedule: Five of the last seven are on the road, including one of those two aforementioned games vs Milwaukee. All but one of the remaining opponents (Charlotte) figures to have something to play for in regards to playoff positioning.


New York Knicks (5th, 15 games out)

Injuries have had a lot to do with it, but this has become a very streaky team. After a 15-2 stretch to begin 2024, the Knicks went 5-10, only to bounce back and win seven of the next eight. Now they’ve lost three in a row, don’t seem any closer to getting OG Anunoby or Julius Randle back, and still have a four-game road trip to navigate.

New York lost three of four with Orlando and two of three with Indiana, so it loses tiebreakers with both.

Remaining schedule: That four-game trip includes two games at a Chicago team desperate to retain home-court advantage in the 9-vs-10 play-in game, as well as visits to Milwaukee and Boston. It won’t be easy and the Knicks could return home for the final two with work to do to retain a top six spot.


Indiana Pacers (6th, 16½ out)

They’ll be in the playoffs for the first time since 2020 and they’ve been clinging to that sixth spot for quite some time. The Pacers are 9-5 in their last 14 games with wins at Dallas, at Orlando, at Oklahoma City, at Golden State and at the Los Angeles Clippers. That’s a pretty impressive stretch and it has helped keep Miami and Philadelphia on the other side of that play-in line.

The Heat are just a half-game behind the Pacers with the season series up for grabs on Sunday. The Sixers are two games back and Indiana has the tiebreaker in that head-to-head.

Remaining schedule: It’s a mixed bag. Roadies against Brooklyn and Chicago and a home date with Atlanta are the easiest on paper. They have to host Oklahoma City and have two big ones as it pertains to the East – vs Miami at Sunday and at Cleveland on Friday.



Questions Of The Day

Are there any big games related to the East race on Wednesday?

Cleveland, Orlando and Indiana are all on the road while Atlanta has a chance to pull even with Chicago in the race for the last play-in spot.

What is happening in the NBA news and rumors mill as it pertains to the East?

Joel Embiid returned to the Philadelphia lineup on Tuesday, helping his team to a comeback win over Oklahoma City. He was gassed and said it’ll take time to get back to form, but his mere presence makes the eighth-place Sixers that much more dangerous.

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