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Mike Bets #148 – East Seeding Rundown

10 min read

It’s Friday, so I’m going for something a little different today. First, a very quick recap of what happened yesterday. We’ll get to the ramifications next –

  • The Bulls rolled the Hornets in Zach LaVine’s return even though he only scored 13 points
  • The Mavs outlasted the Nets despite Kyrie Irving’s 45 points
  • Bradley Beal, Raul Neto, and Robin Lopez all topped 20 points and Russ Westbrook dropped another triple-double in an overtime win over the Raptors. Pascal Siakam had 44
  • The Grizzlies lost another one to a bad team, this time falling to the Pistons 97-111.
  • Caris LeVert and Domantas Sabonis combined for 61, and the Pacers held on after a strong first half despite 83 combined points from Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and John Collins
  • Steph scored 34 as the Warriors blew out the Thunder
  • Anthony Davis left a blowout loss to the Clippers with back spasms after just four points and nine minutes. The game was never in doubt

Now, let’s do a rundown of the standings and what each team is looking at in terms of possible seeding as we head down the stretch. For some, like the top three in the East, the situation is pretty simple since there are so few teams in play for certain seeds. That won’t be the same throughout, so the amount of detail we go into will change a bit. It’s not worth looking at 40 different scenarios for one team when a general picture will do the job. We’ll start with the East today and get to the West tomorrow.


1. Sixers

Best Possible Finish: 1 seed

Worst possible finish: 3 seed

Remaining schedule: Pelicans, Pistons, @Pacers, @Heat, Magic, Magic

The Sixers are in a relatively simple spot. Win some games on an easy schedule or avoid a great finish from the Bucks or Nets, and the 1 seed is theirs. To finish ahead of Milwaukee, they just need to go 4-2. If they do that, the Bucks’ finish won’t matter. Going 3-3 would require the Bucks to go 5-1 or worse, and so on. To finish ahead of the Nets, there’s even less pressure given the tiebreaker Philly owns. They only need to go 3-3. If they go 2-4, the Nets need to finish 4-1 or worse, and so on. It’s the Sixers’ spot to lose from here.

2. Nets (2.5 games back)

Best Possible Finish: 1 seed

Worst possible finish: 3 seed

Remaining schedule: @Nuggets, @Bulls, Spurs, Bulls, Cavs

The Nets need just one more win or Knicks loss to guarantee a higher finish than their neighbors, but they own the tiebreaker, which means that’s irrelevant for seeding. The far more relevant issue is falling to the 3 seed, as the Bucks own the tiebreaker and control their own destiny from here. The Bucks play a very depleted Rockets team tonight. If they win, the Nets will need to finish with a better record in this closing five-game stretch to take the 2 seed. The 1 seed is still alive – Brooklyn could technically get it with three or more wins in these five games. However, a 3-2 finish would require the Sixers to lose out. A 4-1 finish would mean the Sixers need to finish 1-5. Even a 5-0 finish would take a 2-4 run from Philly. In all of these cases, they’d need the Bucks to finish with one or more losses than them in their remaining games too. It’s not looking great for the Nets here.

3. Bucks (3 back)

Best Possible Finish: 1 seed

Worst possible finish: 4 seed

Remaining schedule: Rockets, @Spurs, Magic, @Pacers, Heat, @Bulls

The Knicks own the tiebreaker, so the Bucks need to either win twice more or combine those wins with Knicks losses to get to two in order to clinch the 3 seed or better. In other words, they’re good there as well. To clinch the 2 seed, they simply need to win tonight and then finish with the same or a better record than the Nets over the last five games. If they lose tonight, they’ll be the ones that need the better record down the stretch. For the 1 seed, they’re in slightly better position because they hold the tiebreaker over the Sixers as well. Here’s the breakdown –

Bucks go 6-0: Sixers must go 3-3 or worse

Bucks go 5-1: Sixers must go 2-4 or worse (and Nets lose at least once)

Bucks go 4-2: Sixers must go 1-5 or worse (and Nets lose at least twice)

Bucks go 3-3L Sixers must lose out (and Nets lose at least three times)

It’s not looking great for the Bucks either.

4. Knicks (8 back)

Best Possible Finish: 3 seed

Worst possible finish: 8 seed

Remaining schedule: @Suns, @Clippers, @Lakers, Spurs, Hornets, Celtics (yikes)

The more realistic range here is 4-7 given that the magic number (wins of top team + losses of bottom team to clinch higher spot for top team) on either extreme of the 3-8 range is just 2. The issue for New York is finishing ahead of the Hawks, Celtics, and Heat (1, 2, and 2 games back) despite this brutal schedule. Some important info – Knicks own the tiebreaker over Atlanta. They don’t own it over the Heat. The season series with Boston is 1-1 ahead of that season-ending game. Their magic numbers – 5 for Boston and Miami and 4 for Atlanta, who has played two extra games.

5. Hawks (9 back)

Best possible finish: 4 seed

Worst possible finish: 9 seed

Remaining Schedule: Wizards, Wizards, Magic, Rockets

The 9 seed is only a possibility if the Hawks finish 0-4 and the Pacers finish 6-0, so that seems unlikely. The magic number for beating out the Hornets and the 8 seed is just 2 – the Hornets would need to go 5-1 or better even if the Hawks finish 0-4. The key thing here – Atlanta owns tiebreakers over both the Heat and Celtics, which means the magic number in both scenarios is just 4. Getting that 4 seed will be much more difficult after last night’s loss. With the Knicks owning the tiebreaker, Atlanta needs 7 combined wins and Knicks losses. With the respective schedules at play here, that’s not impossible. It’s going to require a lot of things to go their way though.

6. Celtics (10 back)

Best Possible Finish: 4 seed

Worst possible finish: 10 seed

Remaining schedule: @Bulls, Heat, Heat, @Cavs, @TWolves, @Knicks

With just a 3-3 finish, Boston can clinch a top 7 seed regardless of what the 8-10 teams do, so that’s not much of a worry. The key for the Celtics is those two games against the Heat. All they need is one to claim the tiebreaker and a huge advantage. If they just split that series, all they will need is the same or a better record than the Heat in the other four games. If they sweep or get swept, the dynamic obviously changes dramatically in the favor of the winning team. To beat out the Knicks, Boston needs nine combined BOS wins and NY losses down the stretch. If they beat the Knicks in MSG to end the season, that number goes down to eight (which would include the two you get from that game alone) by virtue of the tiebreaker being decided. To beat out the Hawks, that number is seven.

7. Heat (10 back)

Best Possible Finish: 4 seed

Worst possible finish: 10 seed

Remaining schedule: Timberwolves, @Celtics, @Celtics, 76ers, @Bucks, @Pistons

The Heat will have a little more trouble in getting rid of the Hornets, who own the tiebreaker over them. Miami’s win last week was crucial there, but the magic number is still 4 rather than 3. The other key difference is that the Heat would need to finish with a better record than the Celtics in the other four games if they split the two game series. The number is also seven for beating out the Hawks. For the Knicks, it’s eight as Miami does own the tiebreaker.

8. Hornets (13 back)

Best Possible Finish: 4 seed

Worst possible finish: 12 seed

Remaining schedule: Magic, Pelicans, Nuggets, Clippers, @Knicks, @Wizards

One win or one Raptors loss keeps Charlotte above Toronto at 12. Two combined wins and Bulls losses keep them above Chicago at 11. Similar situations exist in the opposite direction when you look at the Knicks and Hawks in the 4 and 5 seeds. Making up three games on Boston and Miami won’t be particularly easy either, though, as we’ve discussed, there is at least some significant work that those two must do to stay ahead of the Hornets. The real key here is holding onto the 8 seed and getting that extra loss in the play-in, and the good news there is that Charlotte owns both season series. The Pacers are a game back, so the Hornets simply need to be within a game of them over these final six. The Wizards are 1.5 games back with an extra game played. With a win tonight, the Hornets would be in position to finish two games behind Washington over the last five games and still beat them out overall. In other words, the 8 seed is theirs to lose even though there’s still work to do.

9. Pacers (14 back)

Best Possible Finish: 6 seed

Worst possible finish: 12 seed

Remaining schedule: Wizards, @Cavs, Sixers, Bucks, Lakers, @Raptors

Finishing ahead of the Celtics requires either a 6-0 and 1-5 or a 5-1 and 0-6 scenario, so I think we can count that out. With the Heat, just one more Heat win or Pacers loss can be afforded, so that’s not much more likely. The real range here is 8-12. To beat out Charlotte, Indiana will need to finish a full two games better over these last six (so 5-1 v. 3-3 for example). That’s not unrealistic, but it will still require a great finish and some help. To finish ahead of Washington, the Pacers either need to win tomorrow and then finish with the same or better record in the remaining five games OR lose tomorrow and then finish with a better record in the remaining five games. The Wizards own the tiebreaker regardless of what happens tomorrow night. Clinching the top 10 spot won’t be very difficult. The magic number over the Bulls and Raptors? 3 and 2, respectively. The Pacers could go 1-5, and they’d still make the play-in as long as the Bulls finish 4-2 or worse and the win comes against the Raptors.

10. Wizards (14.5 back)

Best Possible Finish: 6 seed

Worst possible finish: 12 seed

Remaining schedule: @Pacers, @Hawks, @Hawks, Cavs, Hornets

With just one loss or win from the Celtics and Heat, the Wizards will be locked below the 7 seed, so don’t be counting on any sort of move up there. As far as the teams below them go, Washington’s magic numbers are also 3 and 2 for the Bulls and Raptors, respectively. The job isn’t quite done, but they’re almost across the finish line. The challenge will be moving up. Topping the Hornets is not going to be easy, as it will require eight combined wins and Hornets losses. With just eleven combined games to go, that’s a big ask. Besting the Pacers will be easier. The Wizards actually control their own destiny there. Win out, and they have the 9 seed regardless of what Indiana does in their other five games. The simple way to look at this – Washington finishes ahead as long as their win total in their last five games matches or exceeds Indiana’s win total in their six games.

11. Bulls (18 back)

Best Possible Finish: 8 seed

Worst possible finish: 12 seed

Remaining schedule: Celtics, @Pistons, Nets, Raptors, @Nets, Bucks

This really isn’t an ideal schedule for a team needing a miracle, but it’s the way of the road for Chicago. Here’s what they need to finish ahead of the four relevant teams:

Hornets: 11 combined wins and Hornets losses. Almost impossible with just 12 combined games remaining

Pacers: 10 combined wins and Pacers losses. Still very close to impossible with the 12 games remaining

Wizards: 9 combined wins and Wizards losses. Washington has already taken care of one additional loss here, but that means there are just 11 combined games remaining

Raptors: Finish with the same amount of wins (or more) in their six remaining games as the Raptors do in their five

Making the play-in means meeting two of those four options. It’s not looking great, but at least they’re not the Raptors.

12. Raptors (18.5 back)

Best Possible Finish: 8 seed

Worst possible finish: 12 seed

Remaining schedule: Grizzlies, Clippers, @Bulls, @Mavs, Pacers

Let’s play the same game here –

Hornets: Win out and Hornets lose out. Good luck.

Pacers: Win out and have the Pacers win just once OR Go 4-1 with the loss coming against someone other than the Pacers and have the Pacers lose out

Wizards: 8 combined wins and Wizards losses. Only 10 combined games remain.

Bulls: Finish with more wins in their five remaining games than the Bulls do in their six

The Raptors are on the brink.

13. Cavs (24 back)

14. Magic (24 back)

15. Pistons (25.5 back)

Here’s what the race for the bottom three – and even odds at the top pick – looks like, with the worst team being #1 –

  1. Rockets
  2. Pistons (3.5 back)
  3. Timberwolves (4 back)
  4. Thunder (4.5 back)
  5. Magic (5 back)
  6. Cavs (5 back)

There are way too many teams here to go in-depth on tiebreakers, but we can clearly see that there are five teams in a very tight fight for those last two spots. There’s drama at the bottom of the league too.

There’s the East. There are ten games tonight, and some have Eastern ramifications –

  • Sixers are playing the Pelicans in one of their toughest remaining games
  • Bucks looking to keep momentum going against bad Rockets team
  • Celtics @ Bulls is a fairly important one
  • Hornets looking to move closer to 8 seed with win over Magic
  • Knicks visiting Phoenix and trying to win to stave off some stress

There’s plenty going on in the West too, but we’ll save that for tomorrow. For now,


Pelicans +9

Celtics -1 1Q

Mavs -3 1Q

Hornets -2.5 1Q

Heat -2 1Q

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