Raptors' playoff chances depend on opponent

The Toronto Raptors have already secured the NBA's Atlantic Division crown. What remains to be seen is where they'll land in the standings and who they'll meet in the playoffs.

1st-round foe likely Milwaukee or Washington

Will the Raptors and Wizards renew acquaintances in the playoffs? (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors have already secured the NBA's Atlantic Division crown. What remains to be seen is where they'll land in the Eastern Conference standings and who they'll meet in the playoffs.

Wednesday night's win over Minnesota vaulted the Raptors over the Bulls for the No. 3 seed in the East. Even though the two teams have the same record (and the Bulls have owned Toronto this season), the tiebreaker goes to the division leader.

Here's a look at the two most likely first-round draws for Toronto at the moment:

If the Raptors finish third: Milwaukee Bucks

The pesky Bucks could pose a challenge for Toronto in the first round.

Toronto holds a 2-1 advantage in the season series, but all of those games came before Milwaukee acquired reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.

Since coming over from the 76ers, Michael Carter-Williams has been a difference-maker in Milwaukee. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Carter-Williams has had an immediate impact for the Bucks and is a matchup nightmare as a 6"6 guard.

Milwaukee is fresh off a 95-91 win over the Bulls, but what's more impressive is that they won the rebounding battle 48-40.

If they can outmuscle a team that consistently frustrates Toronto both in the paint and on the scoreboard, this could make for a long series.

If the Raptors finish fourth: Washington Wizards

Depending on how the final games of the regular season play out, Chicago could pass the Raptors with a better record, meaning that the Dinos will be matched with the Washington Wizards.

The Raptors swept the season series 3-0, but those games were far from blowouts.

The Wizards have a deadly combination of slashing guards and physical forwards that size up well in a playoff series against Toronto.

Big man Nene isn't ready to hand over the title of Brazil's best to heir-apparents and Toronto bench-warmers Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo.

Also, if the Raptors' D had a hard time with Dwight Howard's sparring partner, how will it handle both Nene and Marcin Gortat?

​Add the "House of Guards" duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and a fast-paced, physical series is inevitable.

Who would Toronto rather play?

The Raptors have a lot of good things going for them.

DeMar DeRozan has showed the kind of player he can be, impressing with 42 points in Monday's win over Houston. Toronto's bench has been strong in relief of their starters, and the team's solid chemistry is evident.

The ideal draw is probably Milwaukee. With Kyle Lowry still out with an injury, and Toronto's defence vulnerable to the pick-and-roll, a tilt with Washington may not be the best thing for the Raptors. The addition of Carter-Williams is a major improvement for the Bucks, but Toronto's depth and on-court communication should help it get past Milwaukee.

One more thing to consider: both Miami and Brooklyn are closing in on Milwaukee for the sixth seed.

Could you imagine a first-round rematch with the Nets?


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