The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in 2019-20.
In the process, the Bucks set an NBA record for the fewest number of games to secure a playoff berth since the league went a 16-team format in 1984.
The Toronto Raptors aren't far behind from clinching a playoff berth of their own. At 42-15, Toronto's magic number is now four after the Bucks defeated the Washington Wizards on Monday night.
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With the Wizards currently sitting in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, Raptors' fans can keep an eye on the Wizards' loss column to see how far they are away from securing a playoff spot. A combination of Raptor wins and Wizards losses can speed up the process.
As it sits right now, at 20-36 on the season, the Wizards can only finish the season 46-36. That, of course, would mean the Wizards would need to go a historic run to close out the year without losing a game.
The Raptors, on the other hand, would have to go into a historic losing mode which at this point isn't likely for them to fall out of playoff contention.
What you need to know right now is this. The more the Raptors win and Wizards lose the quicker Toronto can punch their ticket to the postseason.
Right now 46 is the win target for the Raptors, meaning if they go on a four-game winning streak starting Tuesday night against the Bucks they'll be celebrating a playoff berth for the 12th time in franchise history regardless of what the Wizards do.
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Why is Toronto's magic number four instead of five? The Raptors are 2-0 against the Wizards with just one game left meaning they've already clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker in the (extremely) unlikely scenario both teams end up with 46 wins.
Toronto's 46th win could come as early as Tuesday, March 3. Here is the upcoming schedule along with FiveThirtyEight's win probability for the Raptors in each of those games.
|Tuesday, Feb. 25||Bucks||60%|
|Friday, Feb 28||Hornets||92%|
|Sunday, March 1||Nuggets||29%|
|Tuesday, March 3||Suns||54%|
|Thursday, March 5||Warriors||75%|
|Sunday, March 8||Kings||60%|
Making the playoffs certainly checks a box, but appears a mere formality now for the defending NBA Champions who have their sights set on the much bigger goal of repeating as champs.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Raptors a 99% chance of making the playoffs and a 3% chance of winning the NBA Finals.
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