With two days of games left to play, all 16 playoff teams have been determined. However, every seed is still up for grabs in the West and the dust won’t be completely settled on the left coast until all the games have been played.
Things are a lot less murky in the East. In fact, the playoff matchups are all set. Teams can do whatever they want to do to prepare for the postseason, but expect a lot of rest for big name players in the East.
A quick look at the first round pairings in the Eastern Conference:
1. Boston Celtics vs. 8. Atlanta Hawks
Celtics won season series 3-0
Last meeting: April 12 in Atlanta, Celtics won 99-89
What to expect: The Hawks are the definition of a team that is just happy to be here (for the first time since 1999) whereas the Celtics are built for a championship and possess the league’s best record. Anything less than a sweep by Boston would be surprising.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5. Washington Wizards
Tied season series 2-2
Last meeting: March 13 in Washington, Wizards won 101-99
What to expect: These teams meet in the first round for the third straight season and for the third year, Cleveland has home court advantage. Can the Cavs beat the same opponent three years in a row? The Wizards don’t think so, according to Gilbert Arenas, who missed last year’s matchup with an injury. This should be the best first round series in the East, especially with a healthy Wizards roster ready to roll.
3. Orlando Magic vs. 6. Toronto Raptors
Magic won season series 2-1
Last meeting: March 4 in Orlando, Magic won 102-87
What to expect: The exciting duel here is between young all-stars Dwight Howard of Orlando and Chris Bosh of Toronto. One will earn his first trip to the second round, something Tracy McGrady never did in either city. In fact, Orlando hasn’t won a playoff series since 1996, their last season with Shaquille O’Neal. Toronto last won a playoff series in 2001.
2. Detroit Pistons vs. 7. Philadelphia 76ers
Tied season series 2-2
Last meeting: April 9 in Philadelphia, 76ers won 101-94
What to expect: The Sixers were the second-half story of the season in the East, rallying from a record of 23-30 at the all-star break. A win in their final game at Charlotte would draw them to 41-41. The Pistons have their sights set on bigger things, having been to at least the Eastern Conference Finals in each of the past five seasons. But Detroit split the regular season series with Philly and likely will have their hands full with this young, upstart Sixers team.
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