The races that matter in the NBA East are all but decided if one is inclined to look past the first round of the playoffs. Predicting the top five playoff seeds has been pretty easy for quite a while now, but the bottom three seeds have gotten even tighter as the season winds down.
The Bucks are all but locked into first sitting four games ahead of the Raptors with six games remaining. The Raptors are all but locked into second place 4.5 games ahead of the 76ers and the 76ers are all but locked into third at 3.5 games ahead of the Celtics and Pacers.
The Celtics and Pacers are tied with one head-to-head remaining in their schedule that should decide who gets home court in a first round matchup.
- 6th Detroit 38-37, (last 10: 4-6)
- 7th Brooklyn 38-38, (last 10: 5-5)
- 8th Miami 37-38, (last 10: 6-4)
- 9th Orlando 37-39, (last 10: 7-3)
- 10th Charlotte 35-40, (last 10: 5-5)
The fight for fourth will have a huge impact on which teams grab one of the bottom three seeds and because of their own playoff races, neither Boston nor Indiana can afford to take a night off. This should make for some good end of regular season viewing.
- The Pacers play Orlando, Detroit twice, and Brooklyn.
- The Celtics play Brooklyn, Miami twice, and Orlando.
Detroit has a tough schedule. Portland, Pacers twice, OKC, Charlotte, Memphis and the Knicks. If they don’t dramatically improve on their play over the past 10 games (4-6), they will find themselves on the outside looking in on April 13th.
Brooklyn‘s schedule could be even more daunting than Detroit’s. Boston, Milwaukee twice, Toronto, Indiana and Miami. The Nets best hope is that the Raptors and Bucks may be running out their third string for big portions these games as they rest up for the playoffs, and if the Nets don’t beat Miami on the last day of the regular season, they could be the odd team out.
Miami‘s schedule starts out soft and gets rough real fast. The Knicks, Boston twice, Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia, Brooklyn. Take one of two from the inconsistent Celtics and the Heat will feel pretty safe.
Orlando has to believe they’ve got a real chance to move up in the standings. Sixth place is not out of reach. A schedule of Indiana, Toronto, New York, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte has more penciled-in wins than any of the three teams ahead of them.
Charlotte looked like they were still in this race until they dropped a game to the Lakers. Now they have to face Golden State, Utah, and New Orleans on the road. At two games back, their season could be over before coming home to play Toronto and then getting their shot at Detroit and Orlando with what should be an easy win over the Cavs in between.
There is a very real possibility Detroit, Brooklyn, Miami, and Orlando all finish the season with a record of 40-42 and some unimaginable tie-breakers deciding their respective seeding.
- Detroit 40-42, (last 7: 2-5)
- Brooklyn 40-42, (last 6: 2-4)
- Miami 40-42, (last 7: 3-4)
- Orlando 40-42, (last 6: 3-3)
- 10th Charlotte 37-45, (last 7: 2-5)
photo credit Larry Millson