Four teams are in the hunt for a lower seed in the playoffs and what makes it more intriguing than usual is that all four teams are in the Central Division. The Cavs are the runaway winner and class of the division, of course. They have the most talent. The Pacers have played bored all year long. The Bulls are a mess without Dwyane Wade but will lean on Jimmy Butler. The Pistons have totally reorganized around Stan Van Gundy- oops that was last year. This year they are mediocrity in action. The Bucks are young and exciting, have no perimeter shooting but have turned it on since the All-Star break.
So who gets in?
Currently Indiana is leading Milwaukee who is leading Detroit who has a one game lead over the Bulls. So it comes down to the schedule.
Even if these teams make the playoffs, will it matter? Cleveland and Washington are the class of the conference.
While it is true that LeBron is doing his annual cheerleading, on cue, he is playing his best ball of the year. The Cavs are better than anyone beneath them. At best, it’s a six game series for whoever gets the 8th seed. More likely, it’s a five game series.
The Wizards are a different story. They are hard to pin down. After a disastrous start they have finally figured it out. They can either get to the Eastern Conference Finals or lose in the first round. John Wall is having a career defining season but can his jumper be trusted in the postseason?
The best scenario is to avoid the 8th seed and LeBron James. Try to get the 6th seed and face the Celtics who are a good defensive team without a superstar.
The Pacers have 35 wins. The Bucks have 34 wins. Detroit has 34 wins. The Bulls have 33 wins.
The Pacers have 34 losses. The Bucks have 35 losses. The Pistons have 36 losses. The Bulls have 37 losses. 2.5 games separate all four teams, with 12-13 games left. So here we are. The season comes down to the last couple of weeks, as if the first 70 haven’t been exhausting enough.
The schedule is the opponent now. Here’s a snapshot.
The Pacers have 13 games remaining, 1 set of back-to-back games, 6 on the road. They play 9 games against teams who are currently in the playoffs, including Cleveland, Boston, Milwaukee and Toronto twice. Their last game of the season is at home against the Hawks. Prediction: 9-4
The Bucks have 13 games remaining, 1 set of back-to-back games, 8 on the road. They play 6 games against teams who are currently in the playoffs, including the Celtics twice, the Pacers, Pistons and Thunder. Their last game of the season is on the road in Boston. Prediction: 8-5
The Pistons have 12 games remaining, 4 sets of back-to-back games, 8 on the road. They play 5 games against teams who are currently in the playoffs, including the Bucks, Raptors, Rockets, Grizzlies and Wizards. Their last game of the season is on the road in Orlando. Prediction: 6-6.
The Bulls have 12 games remaining, 2 sets of back-to-back games, 6 on the road. They play 5 games against teams who are currently in the playoffs, including the Raptors, Pistons, Bucks, Cavaliers and Hawks. Their last game of the season is at home against New Jersey. Prediction: 6-6.
Pacers win the tie-breaker over the Pistons. Pacers and Bulls split the season series so if it is a tie, the division record decides it.
Bucks win the tie breaker over the Pacers and Bulls. They currently have a tie breaker over the Pistons by a slim 2-1 margin and play them one last time at the end of the month.
The Pistons can help their playoff chances by beating the Bulls and winning the season series. If they beat Milwaukee, they tie the series and force a tiebreaker based on division wins.
The Bulls can even the series with the Pistons and force a tiebreaker based on division wins.
Who’s In the Lottery?
The 8th Seed
The 7th Seed?
The 6th Seed?
photo via llananba