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How the Standings Could Shake Out

Taking a look at the possible playoff scenarios depending on the results from tonight’s slate.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With just 1 game left on the slate, the Sixers will take on the Milwaukee Bucks tonight at 8:00 pm in the Wells Fargo Center. Winning the game should be the only thing on the minds of every Sixer this morning. With the Cavaliers just a game behind, and a leg up on the Sixers in a tiebreaker scenario, the Cavs will face the putrid Knicks tonight.

Should the Sixers lose to Milwaukee combined with a Cavs victory, the Sixers would fall to 4th place with the Cavs jumping them for 3rd, meaning the Sixers would face the Indiana Pacers in round 1. If the Sixers can beat Milwaukee, they take the 3rd seed regardless of what the Cavs do.

Down on the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff standings, the Bucks, Miami Heat and Washington Wizards will be jostling for positioning until the final buzzer sounds tonight. All 3 teams play tonight, and the Bucks are currently in 6th place, just a game ahead of both the Heat (7th) and the Wizards (8th).

If the Bucks can manage to defeat the Sixers, the Bucks will lock themselves into the 6th regardless. However, if the Bucks lose, things can get tricky. In the event of a Bucks loss, Heat and Wizards victories would tie all 3 teams at 44-38. Even a Bucks loss and just one of those teams winning leads to the need for a tiebreaker. The Wizards travel to Orlando tonight to face the Magic, and the Heat hosts the Toronto Raptors.

  • If all 3 teams are tied (Bucks lose, Heat and Wizards win): the Heat get the tiebreaker over both: the Heat and Wizards are both 2-2 head-to-head, but the Heat have a better division record over the Wizards, and they would be division leaders, giving them the tiebreaker over the Bucks. The Wizards and the Bucks are also 2-2 against each other, so the nod would go to the Wizards, whose 8-7 division record bests the Bucks 6-10 division record. Heat 6th, Wizards 7th, Bucks 8th.
  • If the Heat win, Bucks and Wizards lose: The Heat would again take 6th place, having the tiebreaker (division leader) over the Bucks with both teams at 44-38. The Wizards would stay at their current spot, 8th, with a record of 43-39. Heat 6th, Bucks 7th, Wizards 8th.
  • If the Wizards win, Bucks and Heat lose: The Wizards would move into 6th place, their record tied with the Bucks at 44-38, yet the Wizards with the upperhand being division leaders. The Heat fall to 8th at 43-49. Wizards 6th, Bucks 7th, Heat 8th.
  • If Wizards and Bucks win, Heat lose: the Bucks record of 45-37 gives them 6th, no need for a tiebreaker. Wizards would be a game up on the Heat. Bucks 6th, Wizards 7th, Heat 8th.
  • If Heat and Bucks win, Wizards lose: Again, Bucks lock into 6th. Heat would be one game up on the Wizards. Bucks 6th, Heat 7th, Wizards 8th.
  • If all 3 lose: the standings stay as currently constructed. Bucks 6th, Heat 7th, Wizards 8th.

The hope is that the Bucks would lay down for the Sixers but that is unlikely. The Bucks would probably look at the 7th seed as best case scenario, but it’s too much of a possibility for them to fall to 8th to just rest their starters.

If the Sixers can win tonight, it’s possible they end up facing the Heat or the Wizards in the first round, both of whom the Sixers are 2-2 against. The Heat will have a tough task against a fully engaged Toronto, but with Toronto guaranteed the 1st seed already, the Raptors may look to rest their starters. Although, 60 is a nice number to reach in the wins column (Raptors are at 59). The Wizards face the Magic, who would appreciate a loss to help their lottery odds.

If the Sixers are dead set on entering the playoffs as a 3 seed, I think it’s most likely they do so facing the Wizards or the Heat in the first round.

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