There's three games left in the regular season for the Sixers, New York Knicks, and Milwaukee Bucks. It's finally OK to actually look at the NBA playoff picture now that the standings are shaking out with tangible possibilities. The Sixers and Knicks are tied at 33-30, with the Knicks owning the season series. The Bucks, having won last night over New Jersey, hang by a thread at 30-33. A Sixers win or a Bucks loss would eliminate Milwaukee and cement the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams.
But while a 3-game cushion seems comfortable enough to let go of the reins, keep in mind that the second to last game of the season pits the Sixers and Bucks against each other in Milwaukee. So if the Sixers don't win tomorrow against the Nets, they'll have to either take down the Bucks themselves or do it on the last game of the season against the Detroit Pistons. Not entirely secure. They're best handling their business in Jersey and getting it over with.
Let's assume that the Sixers do win one of the next three games. The next issue is who they get in the first round. Being tied with the Knicks, both teams are likely secretly hoping for a matchup with the Chicago Bulls rather than the Miami Heat. Both teams play the Bulls better and, while their pride may become an issue with the whole "winning games" argument, don't want any part of Miami in the first round. The Knicks themselves are sitting Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries so they're ready for the playoffs, leaving Dan Gadzuric, of all people, to get major minutes in today's game against the Hawks. Smells a bit tanky.
After today, the Knicks have a few days off before a season-ending back-to-back against the Clippers and Cavs on Wednesday/Thursday. With the Bulls having all but locked up the top seed, it'll be a race to who can finish at the bottom. Evan Turner has already gone on record saying Chicago is the better matchup (bulletin board material!) but with Parselmouth Doug Collins at the helm, I really can't imagine him taking it easy on anybody. Can you?