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NBA Playoff Standings 2018: Final Regular-Season Records, Seedings and Bracket

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2018

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 26:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)    Stephen Curry #30 and Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 26, 2018 in New York City. The Warriors defeated the Knicks 125-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

At long last, one of the tightest NBA playoff races in recent memory has been settled.

In the Eastern Conference, it was all about the fight for seeding. The Toronto Raptors staved off a late charge from the Boston Celtics to maintain a grasp on the top spot, while the Philadelphia 76ers used a season-closing surge to put a bow on the No. 3 spot.

Out West, the top two seeds were set for some time, with the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors occupying the No. 1 and No. 2 slots, respectively. However, the remaining six spots remained fluid until the end, and the heated battle left us with four compelling first-round series that could produce some serious drama.

                     

Final Regular-Season Standings

Eastern Conference

1. Toronto Raptors (59-23)
2. Boston Celtics (55-27)
3. Philadelphia 76ers (52-30)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32)
5. Indiana Pacers (48-34)
6. Miami Heat (44-38)
7. Milwaukee Bucks (44-38)
8. Washington Wizards (43-39)
9. Detroit Pistons (39-43)
10. Charlotte Hornets (36-46)
11. New York Knicks (29-53)
12. Brooklyn Nets (28-54)
13. Chicago Bulls (27-55)
14. Orlando Magic (25-57)
15. Atlanta Hawks (24-58)

             

Western Conference

1. Houston Rockets (65-17)
2. Golden State Warriors (58-24)
3. Portland Trail Blazers (49-33)
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34)
5. Utah Jazz (48-34)
6. New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)
7. San Antonio Spurs (47-35)
8. Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)
9. Denver Nuggets (46-36)
10. Los Angeles Clippers (42-40)
11. Los Angeles Lakers (35-47)
12. Sacramento Kings (27-55)
13. Dallas Mavericks (24-58)
14. Memphis Grizzlies (22-60)
15. Phoenix Suns (21-61)

               

Playoff Picture

Eastern Conference

  • No. 1 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards
  • No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks
  • No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 6 Miami Heat
  • No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers

           

Western Conference

  • No. 1 Houston Rockets vs. No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves
  • No. 2 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs
  • No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans
  • No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz

Bracket available at NBA.com.

            

Teams to Watch

Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA, PA -  APRIL 3: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles up court against the Brooklyn Nets at Wells Fargo Center on April 3, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

For the first time since 2012, the Philadelphia 76ers are playoff-bound.

Not only that, but the Sixers look like the kind of team that could play the role of spoiler if their key pieces are healthy. After all, they're entering the postseason riding a franchise-record 16-game winning streak.

To cash in on that dark-horse potential, the Sixers need to get center Joel Embiid back at full strength after he went down with a fractured orbital bone against the New York Knicks on March 28.

That injury, which required surgery, sidelined Embiid for the remainder of the regular season. During that stretch, Ben Simmons carried the Sixers to an impressive 8-0 mark while commanding the controls at both ends.

But for all of Simmons' brilliance, it's hard to envision the Sixers making a deep run without their two-way anchor.

Embiid was a force to be reckoned with during the regular season, as he averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The Sixers outscored opponents by a massive 11.6 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, according to NBA.com, but that mark dipped to minus-0.2 when he was on the bench.

That significant gulf can't be ignored given the slower, more methodical pace that tends to envelop postseason showdowns.

If Embiid returns, even at slightly less than 100 percent, the Sixers could be a legitimate threat to qualify for the Eastern Conference Finals. But if he remains sidelined for the next two weeks, a first-round exit isn't out of the question for Philly.

                   

Toronto Raptors

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 11:  Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers battles with DeMar DeRozan #10 and OG Anunoby #3 of the Toronto Raptors during the first half of an NBA game at Air Canada Centre on January 11, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: Us
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have run into postseason roadblocks time and again during Dwane Casey's tenure as head coach.

Yes, they have qualified for the playoffs five years running. But in three of those four seasons, they have failed to advance past the second round. And in their lone Eastern Conference Finals appearance (2016), the Raptors fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.

This time around, though, things could be different.

The Raptors looked like the most complete squad in the Eastern Conference for the majority of the regular season. They also finished the year ranked among the top six in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per NBA.com.

But Toronto still has a LeBron problem.

Although the Raptors trounced the Cavaliers in their first meeting back on Jan. 11, that wasn't the squad the defending Eastern Conference champions are bringing into the playoffs. Rather, that was a version oozing with frustration and dysfunction.

The Cavaliers gutted their roster at the trade deadline, and they've since showed flashes of a team that could make a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals. Plus, they are 2-0 against the Raptors in recent weeks.

While Toronto is the more balanced club, James should never be discounted come playoff time. That alone has the Cavaliers lurking and ready to disrupt the Raptors' dreams of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

               

Houston Rockets

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 03:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets celebrates after a three-point shot in the second half against the Washington Wizards at Toyota Center on April 3, 2018 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Like the Raptors, the Houston Rockets are searching for a postseason breakthrough. And for the first time in years, it appears as though one may be in the cards.

While the Golden State Warriors have been the class of the Western Conference for the past three seasons, the Rockets leapfrogged the defending champions in the standings and secured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Plus, Houston nabbed a 2-1 season series win over the Warriors by virtue of a 116-108 victory on Jan. 20.

"We're confident because we know if we're doing what we're supposed to do, we're going to beat them," center Clint Capela told ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon at the time. "We've got to keep playing. We know that they're going to come back if we have the lead, and we've just got to keep that mindset. ... We are better than them."

The Warriors will have something to say about that if the two meet in the Western Conference Finals.

"The season starts over when you're in the playoffs anyway, so it doesn't matter," Kevin Durant said, per MacMahon. "You're going to have to get through these teams to get to where you want to go. You have to play at home and on the road, so it really doesn't matter. We just want to be playing good basketball when it comes down to that point."

But considering the Rockets finished with the league's second-best offense and vaulted above the Warriors in defensive rating thanks to a deep platoon of wings—which includes defensive stalwarts Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute—a changing of the guard may finally be in order.

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