The Toronto Raptors last made the NBA Playoffs in 2008. Fans have anticipated their return throughout long reformation process. With the Maple Leafs not making the playoffs, all eyes are on the young Raptors squad to bring back the excitement to the city. The Raptors are currently tied with the Chicago Bulls, and even if they remain tied, they will come up ahead for winning their division. However, there are some scenarios that can be played out before the end of the season later tonight.
Here is the chaos that is the Eastern Conference right now:
1. Indiana Pacers (locked)
2. Miami Heat (locked)
3. Toronto or Chicago
4. Chicago or Toronto
5. Brooklyn or Washington
6. Washington, Charlotte or Brooklyn
7. Charlotte or Washington
8. Atlanta Hawks (locked)
If the Raptors remain in third, they will be playing the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards or Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of playoffs. The obvious favourable opponent would be Charlotte, the second being Washington and the third, Brooklyn. Charlotte has stepped up their game, but the Raptors are more of a well-rounded talented team. Washington always get scary with Beal and Wall on the loose and may get a couple wins in the series, but again beatable. Brooklyn would be our toughest opponents with their gritty vets; although it would be a great series to watch.
Sticking with the third place scenario, the Raptors would most likely be playing Miami in the second round. Even if Miami and Indiana have a tie record at the end of tonight, Indiana will be crowned first with the better Eastern Conference record because the series between the two is tied. Both high-ranked teams will likely get through the first round. Now this will be a difficult series. There are so many possible outcomes, but for the most part, Miami is a powerhouse. The Raptors are new the playoffs and they could be extremely overwhelmed by the “Heat” and Miami could very well blow out the young squad. Miami has also been known to choke during crucial moments. The Raptors could potentially get the series to Game 7, where anything could happen. It could definitely go both ways, with the first being the more likely.
Now, the alternate scenario, if the Raptors fall to fourth, which means a loss for them and a win for Chicago tonight, they will still be playing either Brooklyn or Washington. As for the second round, the Raptors would, most likely, be playing Indiana. This match-up is slightly more bearable. The Raptors are not only tied 2-2 in the season series with Indiana, but the Pacers have not been playing great basketball since the all-star break. The Raptors can take advantage of this, which they have been doing throughout the season. Playoffs are a completely different ball game, but that goes for both teams.
Bottom line, the Raptors are a young team. For most of them, this is their first look at playoff experience. It will be an interesting transition for the team, one which they can definitely pull through. The Raptors are the team to do it; shock people and put their talent to work. But the best scenario for this team in its fresh state would be to face Washington or Charlotte in the first round, which will lead to a more focused and productive second round. These guys will gain a bit of experience and can keep their focus for the stronger more difficult teams ahead, whether that is facing Indiana or Miami. And hey, if the Raptors upset either of those teams, that is just more to talk about.