At the time of this writing, the Sixers sit a half-game ahead of the Nets and three games up on Milwaukee. With their remaining games being Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit, Indiana, Miami, and Orlando twice it should be a safe bet they can secure the first seed in the East. With that being said, now is not the time to let off the gas. Obtaining the first seed in the East means a lot more than home-court advantage.
Understanding potential playoff matchups reveal why locking down the first seed in the East is so crucial. As of now, the Celtics, Hornets, Pacers, and Wizards occupy the play in spots. It would be safe to assume the Celtics come out of the play in tournament with the 7th seed. Avoiding a first-round matchup with Boston would be ideal. While the Hornets, Pacers, and Wizards could steal a game or two in the first round, they likely will not pose much of a threat.
The second round is where the fun truly begins. As of today, the Knicks and Hawks occupy the 4th and 5th seed. Both teams are overachieving teams who will be first-timers in the playoffs for the first time with their current cores. While they have the talent to pull of a shocker and make a run, it would be tough to see them beating the Sixers four times in a seven-game series. There is also the possibility that the Heat and Celtics move up to those lines with the difference between the 4th and 7th seeds being 2.5 games.
Time will tell how the bottom half of the standings pan out, but the ultimate prize to landing the first seed comes in the Eastern Conference Finals. Finishing atop the East would mean the Sixers get to avoid the Nets and Bucks up until the ECF. Whoever was to win the matchup between the Nets and Bucks will likely come into the Finals worn down and fatigued to an extent. This would all hinge on the Sixers I’m viciously knocking on wood as I write this making the Eastern Conference Finals. However, as I laid out above, their path could be relatively easy.
Although it has been a wild ride of a season, the Sixers are where they want to be. They control their destiny, and everything is pointing towards a fun playoff run. Nobody wants to play the Sixers in front of their fans. Coming to the Wells Fargo Center is not ideal for opponents, and locking up the first seed would result in the road going through Philadelphia. It would also pave a much easier path to the Finals, and this team is more than capable of going there.
Image: AP Photo/Matt Slocum