The Milwaukee Bucks have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with their 130-116 win over the Miami Heat Thursday. That victory puts them ahead of the Toronto Raptors by five games. The Bucks have four games left on their schedule and the Raptors have five, so the most ground Toronto could mathematically gain is 4.5 games.
The spot is a familiar one to the Bucks. They earned the No. 1 seed last season by winning 60 games. The most they can reach this season is 59 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on a pace basis, Milwaukee has actually improved significantly since last season and did so after losing starting guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers. They are the first team to repeat as the No. 1 seed since the Golden State Warriors during the 2015-2017 seasons. The last Eastern Conference team to repeat as the No. 1 seed was the Chicago Bulls in 2011 and 2012.
The Bucks won’t have to await a play-in winner to determine who they will play in the first round of the playoffs, but there is still a bit of uncertainty. The Brooklyn Nets lead the Orlando Magic by half a game in the standings for the No. 7 seed, but the two will play each other again next week. That game will go a long way in determining who slides to No. 8 with both teams struggling. The Magic are healthier and figure to have the advantage, but nothing is certain in the bubble.
Except for the fact that the Bucks will hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference. That won’t come with homecourt advantage this season as it typically would, but it is an honor befitting a team as dominant as the Bucks. They have been the regular season’s best team wire-to-wire, and now, they will have a chance to prove their worth in the postseason following last year’s disappointment from their perch atop the East.