PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- The Sixers dispatched the Bulls on Monday night 106-94 to pull a full game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with just seven games left to play. Based on the two teams’ remaining schedules, the Sixers have the better chance of locking up home court advantage throughout the East playoffs.
Per Basketball Reference, the Sixers’ chances of locking up the top seed are at 91.9% with seven games remaining. The Nets’ probability is at just 5.8% and the big gap between the two teams is due to the differences in the remaining schedule.
For the Sixers, they have games left against the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and two against the Orlando Magic.
For the Nets, the games remaining are against the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls (twice), San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers.
On the whole, the Sixers remaining opponents have a record of 174-283 which equates to a winning percentage of 38. The Nets opponents have a record of 223-228 which rounds out to about a 49% win percentage on the season. Going further, the Nets next four games are all on the road beginning with the Bucks tonight followed by the Mavericks, Nuggets and Bulls before returning home for their final three games against the Spurs, Bulls and Cavs.
The Sixers schedule is more hospitable as they travel to Houston to face the Rockets Wednesday before returning home for games against the Pelicans and Pistons. Then it’s a two game road trip to battle the Pacers and Heat before ending with back-to-back home games against the Magic.
FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model favors the Sixers in six of their final seven games with the Miami game being a toss up. They’re given win probabilities of 70% or more in all but two of those games (Indiana and Miami). The Nets road is a bit more rocky, with the model seeing them as favorites in four of their seven games and underdogs in each of their next three (Bucks, Mavericks, Nuggets).
Based on the models, the top seed seems likely for Doc Rivers’ crew which could play an important role on several fronts come playoff time. First, the team would have homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs and they have been a much better team at home (25-7) than on the road (19-14) this season. Second and perhaps more importantly, the one seed would all but ensure that the Sixers would avoid playing the Nets or Bucks before the conference finals.
The Nets and Bucks are, by the numbers, all but locked in to the two and three spots in a scenario where the Sixers finish atop the conference. That would mean those two teams would, assuming they get past their first round opponents, meet in the second round of the playoffs. The Sixers are 2-1 against Brooklyn (without the Nets full Big 3) and 0-3 against Milwaukee this season, so any opportunity to get deeper in the playoffs before facing either team is a good thing.