For the last two years, they were the final two steps in what had become LeBron James' annual climb to the NBA Finals.
Now that he's gone, maybe the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are done being stepping stones.
They are among the teams capable of winning the Eastern Conference, which no longer has its longtime ruler and has plenty of candidates ready to replace him.
"Top of the East is awfully good," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "It's a different East than it was the last couple of years, that's one thing, and so I would say that we'll see. We'll see how it all plays out."
The Raptors are likely to be the No. 2 seed behind Milwaukee, and coach Nick Nurse said they're ready for the postseason.
Kawhi Leonard looks healthy, Pascal Siakam has blossomed into a Most Improved Player award candidate, and the midseason acquisition of Marc Gasol has fortified the interior.
"When I say I feel like we're ready to play, that has nothing to do with who we're going to be playing," Nurse said, "either first round, second round, third round, however it rolls out."
Police look at Porzingis
A New York City police official has confirmed that there is an investigation into a rape allegation against NBA star Kristaps Porzingis.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said the department has an ongoing probe. He declined to give further details.
An attorney for Porzingis had acknowledged last week that a woman had accused the Dallas Mavericks forward of raping her in his Manhattan apartment last year while he was playing for the Knicks. But the lawyer, Roland Riopelle, said the allegation was false.
Valanciunas is out
Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas will miss the rest of the season after spraining his right ankle in a loss to the Clippers.
The Grizzlies announced that Valanciunas suffered a grade II sprain Sunday night, though the center will not need surgery.
The 7-foot Valanciunas had started 17 of 19 games since Memphis acquired him from Toronto in a trade Feb. 7. Valanciunas, 26, averaged 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds with Memphis and had a career-high 34 points along with 20 rebounds in a win over Phoenix on Saturday night.
Memphis has five games remaining this season.