The NBA playoffs were mostly set before the season finale on April 16. However, the order of a few NBA playoff seeds still had to be decided, as the Eastern Conference alone only had the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 8 seeds set before the final night. But ultimately, the East got its eight playoff teams and their first round match-ups settled, with only two teams switching places.
The slumping Brooklyn Nets were seemingly safe in the fifth slot, but the Washington Wizards caught up to them at the last minute. Thanks to the Wizards beating the Boston Celtics by 118-102, as well as the Nets losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers by a whopping 114-85, Washington moved up to No. 5.
As a result, the Wizards will face the fourth seeded Chicago Bulls, although the Bulls could have gone up to No. 3 themselves. Yet both the Toronto Raptors and the Bulls lost their season finales and kept the No. 3 and No. 4 respective seeds.
Because the Nets dropped down a peg, they will likely have to face the Miami Heat in the second round if they beat the Raptors. The prospect of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett facing the Heat in another postseason series would be juicy, especially since Brooklyn was perfect against Miami this season. Nevertheless, Pierce, Garnett and the Nets' other expensive stars couldn't deliver on high preseason expectations, leaving the odds long for them to do it in the postseason.
The Raptors and Wizards had virtually no preseason expectations, while the Bulls were dismissed after Derrick Rose's latest injury, but they finished higher than the Nets anyway. What's more, the Charlotte Bobcats finished just behind the Nets, despite having one of the worst seasons in NBA history just two years ago. Yet because they couldn't move up from the seventh position on April 16, the Bobcats have to start the NBA playoffs against the Heat.
The Eastern Conference has been derided as a two-team league for most of the season, but even those two teams are limping into the postseason. If the Pacers and Heat can't flip the switch back on after rough endings to their regular season, then who is equipped to actually challenge them for an NBA Finals berth?
The accompanying list breaks down the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, in the final order they settled on.