With the NBA’s new 22-team playoff format being approved after the Coronavirus outbreak, that leaves nine Eastern Conference teams left to fight for eight playoff spots.
With every team playing eight regular-season games before the playoffs, that guarantees the 76ers a playoff spot. What is not guaranteed, however, is who they will play.
Twenty-two teams left, nine Eastern Conference teams, and every team gets eight more regular-season games.
The Sixers currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference, but giving each remaining team eight more games to play gives Philly a chance to improve where they sit in the standings.
This is what the Eastern Conference Standings currently look like according to ESPN.
Some good news for the 76ers is that they cannot fall any lower than the 6th seed. Some bad news for the 76ers is they cannot get improve to the 1st seed. That means seeds 2 through 6 are all possible for Philadelphia, although some are much more likely than others. This makes the eight-game schedules of the Raptors, Celtics, Heat, Pacers, and, of course, 76ers very important. The Bucks’ schedule does not matter since the mathematically cannot be passed by the Sixers. Note that while the Pacers and Sixers have the same record, the Pacers own the tiebreaker because Indiana leads the season match-up against Philadelphia 2-1.
Twitter user @4monthsofkayo made a schedule outline that follows the protocol the NBA had decided on using for the remaining eight games each team gets. According to the NBA, each team will play out the remainder of their original schedule, but only playing the next 8 games that are against one of the 22 remaining teams. Now, the NBA has not released an official schedule yet, so not only is there a good chance that the schedule is not in the correct order, but that the schedule may be adjusted even more.
Regardless of order, these are the schedules of the teams that matter to the 76ers’ playoff seeding as the schedule currently stands.
Toronto has the hardest schedule out of the five teams. All eight of the Raptors’ games come against playoff-seeded teams, and seven of their eight games are against teams with records that are among the twelve best in the league.
Miami has the second-hardest schedule, behind the Raptors. Like Toronto, seven of Miami’s eight games are against teams who have records in the top twelve of the league. The only benefit Miami gets is getting a game against the Phoenix Suns, who have the second-worst record among the 22 remaining teams.
Boston is next, who have three very tough games against the Raptors, Bucks, and Heat. They have two more games against currently low-seeded playoff teams in Brooklyn and Memphis, then get to play Portland, and then Washington twice. That is a huge benefit for Boston since Washington has the worst record among the remaining 22 teams.
Indiana has the second easiest schedule, but they still have a good amount of tough games. They have six games against playoff-seeded teams, including two games against both Miami and Orlando.
Philadelphia gets the easiest schedule out of these five teams. Philly only has four games against playoff seeded teams. Philly’s four games against teams not currently in the playoff picture also come against some of the weakest remaining teams. They get to play the second-worst team, Phoenix, and then also get to play the worst team out of the remaining 22, Washington, twice.
The 76ers’ easy schedule has them poised for a last-minute regular-season run. These eight games could make or break the Sixers’ hopes of winning the NBA championship. That being said, let’s see what the most likely playoff seeding for Philadelphia will be.
Technically Possible // 2nd Seed
What has to happen:
Toronto loses all eight games, Boston loses at least five games, Miami loses at least three games, Indiana loses at least one game, Philadelphia win all eight games
While it is mathematically possible that the 76ers can get the number two seed in the East, it would take about a dozen miracles for it to happen. The largest hurdle with this is the Raptors losing every single one of their eight games. While it helps that Toronto has arguably the hardest eight-game schedule in the NBA, the Raptors are still favored in six of their eight games, albeit not favored by much. It is absurd to bet on the Raptors, who have the third-best record in the NBA, to go on an eight-game losing streak. Not to mention the Raptors having an epic meltdown is only one of the dominoes that would have to fall for the 76ers to get the 2 seed.
The next unlikely thing to happen would be the 76ers doing the opposite of what the Raptors would have to do. The 76ers would have to win all eight remaining games. Now, the Sixers do have a very easy schedule, but they still have three very tough games against Toronto. Indiana, and Houston. Out of the five teams above, Philly still has the highest chance to win out the rest of the regular season, but it does not mean that their chance is that good.
Indiana losing one game is very favorable, and Miami losing at least three games is more likely than not, but Boston losing at least five games is yet another unlikely scenario. The 76ers getting the two seed is not even worth giving a second thought.
Don’t Bet On It // 3rd Seed
What has to happen:
Boston loses at least five games more than Philadelphia, Miami loses at least three more games than Philadelphia, Indiana loses at least one more game than Philadelphia, Philadelphia wins at least five games
The difference between the 2nd seed and 3rd seed scenarios are that it no longer matters what the Raptors do (which increases the odds by a lot), and the 76ers now have to win at least five games instead of all eight (which also increases the odds by a lot). Now, just because the odds have been increased by a good amount does not mean it is likely.
Boston still has to lose at least five games which is not something you want to rely on since the Celtics are favorites in six of their remaining eight games. On the flip side, Indiana losing one more game than Philly is not asking much, and despite Miami’s good record, they are only favorites to win four out of their last eight games. If Miami loses the four games they are supposed to, and then suffers just one upset, this scenario does not seem too far fetched. especially when you consider that Philadelphia is favored in five of their last eight games, and one of the three games Philly is not favored in outcomes against the Pacers, who have the same record as the Sixers.
All in all, this most likely will not happen, but it is not crazy to hold onto some hope that this could be a possibility.
Surprisingly Doable // 4th Seed
What has to happen:
Scenario One (Passing Boston): Boston loses at least five games more than Philadelphia, Miami wins at most two games less than Philadelphia, Indiana wins at least one less game than Philadelphia, Philadelphia wins at least five games
Scenario Two (Passing Miami): Boston wins at least four games, Miami wins at least three games less than Philadelphia, Indiana wins at least one less game than Philadelphia, Philadelphia wins at least three games
Passing Miami is a much easier scenario for Philly than passing Boston is, so we’ll just talk about the second scenario for now. Like always, the Sixers have to do one game better than the Pacers. But for this scenario, the only other team Philly has to worry about is Miami. Sadly, Miami beat Philly 3-1 in the regular season so Miami has the tiebreaker. But if the 76ers win three more games than the Heat do during this eight-game stretch, they get themselves into the four seed.
Like we said earlier, the 76ers are favored in five of their eight games, and the Heat are favored in four of their eight games. Assuming the 76ers win the games they are supposed to, they will either need to upset a couple of teams, or have the Heat lose a couple of games they were supposed to win.
It is nowhere near far-fetched to believe that the Sixers can do this, it is just a lot tougher when you need to rely on other teams to help you out, instead of controlling their own destiny.
Very Possible // 5th Seed
What has to happen:
Scenario One (Passing Boston): Boston loses at least five games more than Philadelphia, Miami wins at most two games less than Philadelphia, Indiana beats Philadelphia and ends with the same record as Philadelphia or wins one more game than Philadelphia, Philadelphia wins at least five games
Scenario Two (Passing Miami): Boston wins at least four games, Miami loses at least three games more than Philadelphia, Indiana beats Philadelphia and ends with the same record as Philadelphia or wins one more game than Philadelphia, Philadelphia wins at least three games more than Miami
Scenario Three (Passing Indiana): Boston wins at least four games, Miami loses at most two more games than Philadelphia, Indiana loses to Philadelphia and ends up with the same record as Philadelphia or loses at least one more game than Philadelphia, Philadelphia wins as many games as Indiana and beats Indiana or wins at least one more game than Indiana
Passing Indiana is by far the simplest scenario so we will just go with that. The Pacers are favored in five of their eight games. The Sixers are favored in five of their eight games. One of the games the Pacers are favored in and the Sixers are not favored in is the game against one another. If the Sixers beat Indiana, they can end up with the same record as the Pacers and still get the five seed. If the Sixers lose to Indiana, they have to win one more game than Indiana does.
Unless the Sixers dominate these next eight games and the Pacers get dominated, this is all going to come down to the Philadelphia vs Indiana game. While as a 76ers fan this may seem like Philly has the advantage here, but based on how the season has gone so far, the Pacers actually carry the advantage.
The Harsh Reality // 6th Seed
What has to happen:
Boston wins at least four games, Miami loses at most two more games than Philadelphia, Indiana beats Philadelphia and ends with the same record as Philadelphia or wins one more game than Philadelphia
Even though it is very possible that the Sixers do get a better seed come playoff time, the most likely scenario is Philadelphia staying put at the six seed. The fact of the matter is that Philadelphia has been inconsistent all season. Being a powerhouse while at home and being an apathetic team on the road.
Whether you look at the schedule from a glass-half-full kind of way, and see eight neutral site games, or look at the schedule from a glass-half-empty kind of way, and see eight road games, Philadelphia will not have a home game again for the rest of the season.
The Sixers have disappointed this season and deserve to be looked at as the underdogs in their attempt to climb up the standings, but just because this is the most likely scenario, doesn’t mean it is guaranteed.
Crazier things have happened.
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