The Eastern Conference playoff field is set, and the final day of the regular season will bring a preview of a first-round matchup.
Indiana’s win over Houston on Wednesday set what had been the last two unknown series on the East bracket. No. 3 Boston will play No. 6 Philadelphia in a meeting between longtime rivals, and the Pacers are now locked into an East opening series against the Miami Heat — with the potential of those teams playing nine times in a span of 10 games.
Miami beat Indiana on Monday. The teams meet again Friday in the seeding-game finale for both clubs, then face off in Game 1 to begin a best-of-seven series early next week.
That means, for just the second time since 2011, teams that end the regular season against one another will open the postseason against one another. The last time it happened was 2016, when Cleveland faced Detroit.
“It’s good to know that we play them,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who learned of Indiana’s win over Houston about 90 minutes prior to Miami’s start time against Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. “Just need to figure out what uniform we’re wearing.”
That will be decided Friday. The Heat-Pacers winner will be the No. 4 seed, and have the right to be declared the “home" team for Games 1 and 2 of the series. Miami lost to the Thunder on Wednesday night, sitting most of its regulars much of the game and wasting a 22-point fourth quarter lead.
The Heat lead the season series with the Pacers, 3-0.
“We’ve got to match Miami’s energy,” Indiana’s Edmond Sumner said. “That’s a team that’s going to play hard for 48 minutes.”
It’ll be the first Heat-Pacers series since they met in three consecutive postseasons — 2012, 2013 and 2014, with Miami winning all those. The only other playoff matchup between the clubs was in 2004, with Indiana winning that one.
The Celtics have defeated the 76ers in each of their last four postseason series. Philadelphia’s last time ousting Boston was in 1982.
The other East matchups were known previously: No. 1 Milwaukee plays No. 8 Orlando, and No. 2 Toronto plays No. 7 Brooklyn.