NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Picture: Predicting Full Seeds and Final Bracket

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 28, 2020

Boston Celtics guard Jayson Tatum plays against the Minnesota Timberwolves during an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks have dominated the Eastern Conference, but they might not capture the spotlight during the eight seeding games in Orlando, Florida. 

Milwaukee owns a 6.5-game advantage over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 seed, and it could have that honor locked up in the first half of contests at ESPN's Wide World of Sports. 

The most drama over the next two weeks is expected to take place in the middle of the standings, where the Miami Heat have a two-game lead over the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers. 

At the bottom, the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic are in good shape to qualify for the postseason, but the order of the two sides may change because of the absences across the Nets roster.

                

Eastern Conference Predictions

1. Milwaukee

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2. Toronto

3. Boston

4. Philadelphia

5. Miami

6. Indiana

7. Orlando 

8. Brooklyn

        

By the time the Bucks and Raptors meet August 10, Milwaukee should have the No. 1 seed secured. 

The top team in the East faces a tricky start against Boston and Houston, but then the schedule gets easier with matchups versus Brooklyn and Miami.

As long as the Bucks win two of those games, it would be mathematically impossible for the Raptors to overtake them. 

Toronto has a chance to feel comfortable as the No. 2 seed before it meets up with Milwaukee. The Raptors face Orlando, Boston and Memphis in the three games prior. 

If the reigning champion beats the Celtics, who it is 1-2 against this season, and makes easy work of the Grizzlies and Magic, it should keep it at least three games ahead of Boston in the win column.

Even if Boston loses its head-to-head meetings with Milwaukee and Toronto, it is in a good position to claim the No. 3 seed. 

Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Co. close with Orlando, Memphis and Washington and faces Brooklyn prior to its clash with Toronto. 

Even though Philadelphia is two games back of Miami, it could have the inside track to the No. 4 seed due to its easy schedule. 

After opening with Indiana, the Sixers face five opponents in a row that enter Orlando in a battle for the No. 8 seed in their respective conferences. 

Philadelphia could also have an advantage in its penultimate game against Toronto since the Raptors would likely have the No. 2 seed locked up by then. 

The final five games for both Miami and Indiana may be treacherous. The Heat finish with Milwaukee, Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Indiana twice, while the Pacers take on the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets around their clashes with the Heat. 

If Philadelphia gets on a winning run, and Miami and Indiana split their games, the Sixers could slide into No. 4 and enter the postseason with more confidence than the other two squads. 

Brooklyn and Orlando also have to play each other twice in their competition for the No. 7 seed. 

The Nets and Magic open their Orlando schedules against each other and then meet again August 11. 

In between those meetings, the Magic face four teams above them in the East standings, while Brooklyn faces two in that category and the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Brooklyn's advantage might come in the form of a matchup with Washington, but there could be concerns regarding how productive its rebuilt lineup will look in the first few games.

The Nets are 1-2 in their Orlando scrimmages and could struggle with depth behind Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen. 

Brooklyn should escape a play-in series with Washington, especially if it beats the Wizards, but holding off Orlando with a half-game lead could be too much for it to handle.

                 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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