Ashley Landis/Associated Press
Fifteen NBA teams have moved on from the seeding games inside the Orlando, Florida, bubble to preparing for first-round playoff matchups.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers did not face much trouble in locking up the top seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The Bucks will be challenged by the reigning champion Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics for the East crown, while a handful of contenders are lining up to knock off L.A.
The Lakers are the only team without a confirmed first-round opponent, as they have to wait for the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies to decide the West’s No. 8 seed in a play-in series.
Portland and Memphis will play Saturday and would meet again Sunday if the Grizzlies win the first contest.
The first round of the playoffs will begin Monday, with the Utah Jazz playing the Denver Nuggets.
1. Milwaukee (56-17)
2. Toronto (53-19)
3. Boston (48-24)
4. Indiana (45-28)
5. Miami (44-29)
6. Philadelphia (43-30)
7. Brooklyn (35-37)
8. Orlando (33-40)
9. Washington (25-47)
1. Los Angeles Lakers (52-19)
2. Los Angeles Clippers (49-23)
3. Denver (46-27)
4. Houston (44-28)
5. Oklahoma City (44-28)
6. Utah (44-28)
7. Dallas (43-32)
8. Portland (35-39)
9. Memphis (34-39)
10. Phoenix (34-39)
11. San Antonio (32-39)
12. Sacramento (31-41)
13. New Orleans (30-42)
Playoff Bracket and Schedule
Toronto Starts Title Defense Against Brooklyn
The Raptors had the best bubble record of any Eastern Conference team at 7-1.
While clinching the No. 2 seed, Toronto knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee and Philadelphia 76ers. Its only loss was to Boston, which it could meet in the semifinal round.
The seven wins allowed Nick Nurse’s side to carry more momentum into the postseason than the top-seeded Bucks, and they will need it, with a tricky first-round matchup ahead against Brooklyn.
Despite dealing with numerous absences, the Nets went 5-3 and almost earned a sixth victory Thursday in a one-point loss to Portland.
Jacque Vaughn’s team may not upset the Raptors in a seven-game series, but it could frustrate the champions as they look ahead to a potential semifinal clash with Boston and possible conference finals matchup with the Bucks.
Toronto went 3-1 in the regular season against Brooklyn, but the Nets lost by single digits twice and won by 10 points February 12.
Caris LeVert and Joe Harris could pose a threat to the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet with their three-point shooting ability, and Jarrett Allen may have advantages in stretches down low.
LeVert reached the 30-point mark on two occasions and made more than 40 percent of his shots in every appearance during the eight seeding games. Allen comes into the first-round series off three consecutive double-doubles. He totaled four in the bubble.
Brooklyn’s starters could do damage at points, but it may lack the depth to pull off the upset.
Toronto entered the bubble with a much deeper roster than Brooklyn, and it handed valuable playing time to Norman Powell, Chris Boucher and Matt Thomas in the final few seeding games.
If the bench players are able to provide an impact in relief of Lowry, Van Vleet and others, Toronto could be in good position for a long title defense.
Lakers Face Tricky Path to NBA Finals
The Lakers did not face any difficulties locking up the No. 1 seed, but that honor comes with a rare disadvantage of being the last team to find out its first-round opponent.
Los Angeles will face the the winner of the play-in series between Portland and Memphis.
A potential meeting with the Blazers could cause trouble for the Lakers since they would have to deal with a red-hot Damian Lillard. The Lakers went 2-1 against the Blazers, but allowed more than 120 points in two of those clashes.
In addition to Lillard, Portland regained depth, with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returning from injury after the long layoff.
If the Lakers get through the first round, they could face the unenviable task of shutting down James Harden in a best-of-seven series. The Rockets are scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 meeting.
There is no easy matchup in the postseason, but the Lakers would prefer not to see one of the game’s best scorers in the second round. Harden has a pair of 30-point games against L.A. this year.
If chalk holds in the bracket, the Lakers would face the Los Angeles Clippers in the West finals. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and others could pose matchup problems for LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co.
The Lakers and Clippers split their four head-to-head meetings, and each was decided by 10 points or fewer.
Frank Vogel’s team has proved it can beat all of its potential playoff foes, but compared to Milwaukee and Toronto in the East, it has a much more difficult path to the NBA Finals.