The Philadelphia 76ers currently sit at 39-24 on the season, which is good enough for the second spot in the highly-competitive Eastern Conference. The Sixers are only separated by three games with the six-seed Cleveland Cavaliers, who currently occupy the last guaranteed playoff spot.
How the standings shake out will be anyone’s guess and tie breakers will be a huge factor in where teams finish out. So, what are the current standings with tie breakers? What are some of the undecided tie breakers where the Sixers can control their own fate?
Before we begin, I’ll explain how tie breakers work in the NBA. The first tie breaker to determine seeding is with regular season matchups between two teams. For example, if team A and team B have the same record, whoever has the better win percentage in their regular-season matchups will get the higher seed. If team A is 3-1 against team B then team A will get the higher seed.
But what if the season series is 2-2? That’s when division record comes into play. The division leader would win a tie over a team not leading their division. If a tie occurs between two teams not in the same division then it would come down to who has the best record against teams within their conference. There are further rules if there’s a tie beyond this, but these scenarios would be pretty unlikely to happen so I’ll save you all from that endless rabbit hole. These are the main rules that can/will come into play over the next few weeks.
All that being said, let’s take a look to see where things stand and how they might shake out.
Where things stand with the Heat
The Miami Heat are currently the one seed in the East, sitting at 43-22 record — putting them three games in front of the Sixers. The Heat have one of the easier remaining schedules in the NBA, so unless they go on a pretty big losing streak it seems unlikely that the Sixers will be able to catch up.
If they were able to catch up somehow, their next game against them would be high-stakes. The Heat currently lead their matchup 2-1, so the Sixers could tie the season series against them if they were able to win their next matchup on March 21. The Heat and Sixers aren’t in the same division, so conference record would likely come into play if they were to tie. The Sixers are 23-15 and the Heat are 28-13 within the East.
Where things stand with the Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are neck-and-neck with the Sixers in the standings, currently a half game behind them in the third spot at 40-25. Unlike Miami, the Bucks actually have the third-hardest schedule from a win percentage standpoint in the NBA, per Tankathon. They still have games to play against the Memphis Grizzilies, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Sixers, Dallas Mavericks, and Chicago Bulls (twice) respectively.
Speaking of their game against the Sixers — it’ll be a pretty important matchup. The Bucks and Sixers are 1-1 in their season series, making the third and final game in the series the tie breaker. This game is on March 29 in Philly. Conference record won’t be a factor in determining playoff seeding between the Bucks and Sixers as it’s an odd number of games, meaning there’s no possible way they can tie their season series.
Where things stand with the Bulls
The Bulls have had a tremendous season with DeMar DeRozan entering the MVP conversation. They’ve had a bit of a midseason skid, however, and now find themselves fourth in the Eastern Conference at 39-25. They have the most difficult remaining schedule per Tankathon, featuring matchups against the Suns, Heat, Jazz, Sixers, Bucks (twice), and Boston Celtics.
It’s very possible that this midseason skid will prolong due to a combination of injuries and a tough schedule. The Sixers have dominated the matchup against the Bulls, currently 3-0 in their season matchup. Regardless of what happens in their final matchup on March 7, the Sixers will own the tiebreaker between them.
Where things stand with the Celtics
The Boston Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and have surged into the fifth seed in the East — where they’re currently a game and a half behind Philly with a 39-27 record. They, along with Milwaukee and Chicago, have a difficult remaining schedule that still features matchups against the Grizzlies, Warriors, Heat, Jazz, and Bucks.
The Sixers and Celtics split their season series with two games a piece, and since they’re in the same division, it’ll possibly come down to whoever wins the division if they do indeed tie. The Sixers are currently 6-7 and the Celtics are 9-6 within their division.
Where things stand with the Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have been the NBA’s biggest surprise, with Darius Garland emerging as a bonafide All-Star. This team features a ton of length between Issac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. The Cavs currently sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference, three games ahead of the seventh seed Toronto Raptors.
The Sixers currently have the series advantage at 2-0, with two additional games to be played on March 16 and April 3 in Cleveland. The Sixers simply need to win one of these two matchups to clinch the season series advantage. If Cleveland were to win both of these games and the teams were tied, it would then come down to Conference record — the Sixers are 23-15 and the Cavs are 21-16.
This Eastern Conference race is the tightest we’ve seen in years, and all of these mentioned teams are within a game or two of each other. Tie-breakers will play a huge factor over the next few weeks, more so than ever before in recent memory. Make sure to keep an eye on these feature matchups.