With NBA teams beginning to separate themselves as we reach the final stretch of the 2022-23 season, every squad should have at least one opponent they'd prefer not to see in the playoffs.

Whether it be poor regular-season showings, individual mismatches or an unpleasant experience from the 2022 postseason, there's a reason why at least one team should strike a little fear into the hearts of even the most talented franchises.

Since playoff seeding (and the play-in tournament) are still weeks away from being decided, we're using Basketball-Reference's playoff probability report to determine the 16 postseason teams.


East No. 1: Milwaukee Bucks

Nightmare Matchup: Philadelphia 76ers

Season Record Against: 1-2

Net Rating Against: minus-3.1

Milwaukee's recent 16-game win streak looked like it would reach 17 against the 76ers until a fourth-quarter meltdown saw the Bucks give up a whopping 48 points.

Allowing 133 points in total to the Sixers should have Milwaukee a little hesitant to face Joel Embiid, James Harden and company again, especially since both stars registered 30-plus point double-doubles.

If there's anyone who can make Giannis Antetokounmpo appear mortal, it's Embiid. The two-time MVP was just 9-of-21 from the floor with seven turnovers in the loss to Philly, and is shooting just 41.4 percent overall in three games against the Sixers with Embiid or P.J. Tucker as the primary defender, per NBA.com matchup data.

There are few teams in the league who can match Milwaukee's combination of star power, depth and playoff experience. The 76ers check all of these boxes and more.


East No. 2: Boston Celtics

Nightmare Matchup: New York Knicks

Season Record Against: 1-3

Net Rating Against: minus-1.5

While the Knicks looked like a favorable matchup for the East's top teams a few weeks ago, New York has won nine of its last 10 games and is now one of the hottest squads in all of basketball.

Since the end of January, the Knicks are a perfect 3-0 against Boston, including a thrilling double-overtime win on March 5 despite New York missing Jalen Brunson.

Celtics star forward Jayson Tatum has also struggled in this matchup, shooting just 9-of-33 (27.3 percent) from three in the three losses.

With Immanuel Quickley torching Boston's strong perimeter defense for a season-high 38 points in the double-OT win and Julius Randle putting up 30.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 50.0 percent shooting over the teams' four games, the Knicks would be an extremely tough matchup for the Celtics in their quest to return to the Finals.