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Taking a look at the pre-All-Star break schedule for the BIMPT race

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(Boston, Indiana, Miami, Philadelphia, Toronto.)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers have been jockeying for standings positioning with four other teams for a large portion of the season: Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Indiana Pacers. All five teams, henceforth known as BIMPT, are separated by no more than 2.5 games. Only three of them (plus the Milwaukee Bucks) will be granted home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. On the horizon is the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, followed by the home stretch of the season during which the Sixers will play their last 27 games. Let’s take a look at the road between now and then for the five Eastern Conference contenders playing for the 2nd seed, as well as some projections.

Toronto Raptors (33-14)

Schedule (FiveThirtyEight TOR RAPTOR Spread & Win Prob.)

@ Cleveland Cavaliers (-5, 69%)
@ Detroit Pistons (-3.5, 64%)
vs. Chicago Bulls (-11.5, 86%)
vs. Indiana Pacers (-5.5, 72%)
@ Indiana Pacers (+1.5, 45%)
vs. Brooklyn Nets (-6.5, 74%)
vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (-7.5, 76%)
@ Brooklyn Nets (-1.5, 57%)

Games: 8

Home/away: 4/4

Back-to-backs: 2 (@ CLE & @ DET; @ IND & vs. BKN)

RAPTOR record: 7-1

Toronto’s schedule is pretty friendly. Outside of two games against their fellow BIMPTer Indiana Pacers, their opponents are sub-.500 teams, though the Nets could prove to be competitive.

Miami Heat (32-15)

Schedule (FiveThirtyEight MIA RAPTOR Spread & Win Prob.)

@ Orlando Magic (+3.5 ORL, 36%)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers (+1, 46%)
@ Los Angeles Clippers (+10, 17%)
@ Sacramento Kings (+1, 46%)
@ Portland Trail Blazers (+1.5, 44%)
@ Golden State Warriors (-1.5, 55%)
@ Utah Jazz (+7, 25%)

Games: 7

Home/away: 1/6

Back-to-backs: 1 (@ POR & @ GS)

RAPTOR record: 1-6

The Heat have a tough schedule ahead of them heading into the All-Star break. After losing to the Boston Celtics Tuesday night, they now travel to Orlando on Saturday to take on a potential playoff opponent (though the Magic are 3-7 in their last 10). The Heat’s lone home game is against the Sixers, who have Joel Embiid back from injury. Then they’re back on the road for a lengthy West Coast trip (5 games), including two games against Western Conference contenders in the LA Clippers and the Utah Jazz. While RAPTOR has the Heat at 1-6 over this stretch, it sees four of the games as near toss ups, and only has the Heat as underdogs by greater than two possessions in just two of the games, so I wouldn’t put too much weight into the projected record. But I also don’t expect the Heat to come through and still hold rightful claim to the 3rd seed.

Boston Celtics (31-15)

Schedule (FiveThirtyEight BOS RAPTOR Spread & Win Prob.)

vs. Golden State Warriors (-10, 84%)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers (-1.5, 56%)
@ Atlanta Hawks (-6, 72%)
vs. Orlando Magic (-8, 79%)
vs. Atlanta Hawks (-12.5, 89%)
@ Oklahoma City Thunder (+0.5, 49%)
@ Houston Rockets (+4.5, 33%)
vs. Los Angeles Clippers (-1.5, 55%)

Games: 8

Home/away: 5/3

Back-to-backs: 0

RAPTOR record: 6-2

The Celtics have 8 games but somehow no back-to-back. They lucked out with the Hawks twice, and the Magic and Warriors at home. But their battle with the Sixers could go either way and that trip down to Texahoma could be challenging, only to come back home to face Kawhi and the Clippers.

Indiana Pacers (31-17)

Schedule (FiveThirtyEight IND RAPTOR Spread & Win Prob.)

vs. New York Knicks (-12, 87%)
vs. Dallas Mavericks (-1.5, 56%)
@ Toronto Raptors (+5.5, 28%)
vs. Toronto Raptors (-1.5, 55%)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans (-1.5, 56%)
vs. Brooklyn Nets (-6.5, 73%)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks (+0.5, 47%)

Games: 7

Home/away: 6/1

Back-to-backs: 1 (vs. TOR & vs. NOP)

RAPTOR record: 5-2

Indiana is will be at home for all but one game before the All-Star break, but they’ll also face respectable competition with all but two of their opponents 6-4 or better in their last 10 games. They’ve also got that back-to-back in there.

Philadelphia 76ers (31-17)

Schedule (FiveThirtyEight PHI RAPTOR Spread & Win Prob.)

@ Atlanta Hawks (-5.5, 70%)
@ Boston Celtics (+1.5, 44%)
@ Miami Heat (-1, 54%)
@ Milwaukee Bucks (+4, 35%)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies (-10, 83%)
vs. Chicago Bulls (-14, 90%)
vs. Los Angeles Clippers (-3.5, 63%)

Games: 7

Home/away: 3/4

Back-to-backs: 0

RAPTOR record: 5-2

The Sixers certainly don’t have an easy schedule before the break. I want to say the Sixers have three gimmes in there (CHI, ATL, MEM), but the Grizz are fiesty and the Hawks are 3-2 against the Sixers in the last 5 games dating back to last season, including a narrow 2-point loss this season. The game in Boston will be the Celtics final chance to avoid being swept on the season by the Sixers and the Bucks want revenge for Christmas Day. If we’re looking for pros, the Clippers come to Philly for what will be their 3rd game of a 4-game road trip that starts in Minnesota and ends in Boston, just before the break. I think the Sixers weather the storm, splitting LAC, BOS, MIL, and MIA, and taking care of business against their inferior opponents.

RAPTOR Win Projections

FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR Win Projections

RAPTOR Eastern Conference:

  1. Milwaukee Bucks: 64-18
  2. Philadelphia 76ers: 55-27
  3. Toronto Raptors: 55-27
  4. Boston Celtics: 54-28
  5. Miami Heat: 51-31
  6. Indiana Pacers: 50-32
  7. Orlando Magic: 38-44
  8. Brooklyn Nets: 36-46

RAPTOR Playoff Bracket:

MIL vs. BKN
BOS vs. MIA

PHI vs. ORL
TOR vs. IND

RAPTOR gives the Sixers and Bucks a 40% chance each of making the Finals, 12% to the Celtics, 9% to the Raptors, and <1% to all remaining Eastern Conference teams.

DARKO Win Projections

DARKO Daily Projected Win Totals: 1/30/20

You can learn more about DARKO (Daily Adjusted and Regressed Kalman Optimized projections) here.

DARKO Eastern Conference:

  1. Milwaukee Bucks - 67.9
  2. Toronto Raptors - 56.2
  3. Boston Celtics - 54.6
  4. Miami Heat - 53.4
  5. Philadelphia 76ers - 51.9
  6. Indiana Pacers - 50.2
  7. Orlando Magic - 39.0
  8. Brooklyn Nets - 34.8

DARKO Playoff Bracket:

MIL vs. BKN
MIA vs. PHI

TOR vs. ORL
BOS vs. IND

DARKO projects more wins for the Bucks than RAPTOR does, but for the most part, they’re pretty closely in agreement on all but two teams: the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers. RAPTOR is higher on the Sixers and lower on the Heat than DARKO.