As the season draws to a close, the playoff seeding drama is on high alert here atblog. While the playoff teams are virtually guaranteed (Memphis is the only team that could fall out, and we'll never see them anyway), a lot of the seeds at the tops of both divisions are still pretty much up for grabs.
The Celtics are in a peculiar spot here, because while it is unlikely (but not impossible, especially with a win tonight) that they'll grab the top seed in the East, it is much more likely that they'll actually end up tied with the, , Lakers, or even the Mavericks.
First, lets look at the Eastern conference. Here are the current standings (lovingly lifted from ESPN.com)
Most Probable Tie: Miami
-Miami is only a half game back from Boston. A loss tonight from the Green brings them even again. This is the most probable tie for Boston, and also the most likely situation wherein the two teams would face each other in the playoffs.
The first tie-breaker that would apply here is the two teams' head-to-head records, and Boston has the advantage there. Although the two teams face off once more this coming Sunday, Boston has already won the previous 3 match-ups between the two teams, so even if Miami wins, it will not change the situation regarding the tie-breaker (but it probably would change whoever is the 2nd seed, as the loser would likely fall behind the winner in the overall standings).
Tiebreaker: Head-to-head record, Boston holds tie-breaker currently and indefinitly at 3-0 right now
Outside Shot At A Tie: Chicago
-Boston currently sits 3 games back from Chicago, and the top seed in the East. While tying or overtaking Chicago is not as of yet a mathematical impossibility, it is an improbability. But...I've got nothing better to do right now so let's walk through that.
Boston would need to win tonight against Chicago (2 games back), as a loss tonight guarantees that Boston cannot pass (although a tie would still be possible..in the same way that winning the lottery is 'possible') the Bulls. Then, Boston would probably need to win-out the next 4 games, although that would be completely contingent on Chicago. Chicago would have to lose at least 2 of their next 4 after tonight in order for the Celtics to have even the mathematical possibility of catching them.
Tiebreaker: It's complicated, and as yet, uncertain.
-The Celtics and Bulls have played 3 games to far this season, and the Celtics have won two of them. That's why tonight is so important here. If the Celtics win, than they'll have won 3 out of the 4 head-to-head match-ups, which will give them the tiebreaker. If Chicago wins, and by some machination (which again is nearly impossible) Boston still manages to tie the Bulls, the H2H record would be 2-2 a piece, which means they'd need to go to the next tiebreaker, conference wins. Since both teams have 5 remaining games against all Eastern conference opponents, and the Celtics currently have 1 more win and one less loss against Eastern Conference opponents, and the Bulls would need to lose all their remaining games after tonight for the C's to tie, than the Celtics would hold that tiebreaker also.
Teams that mathematically cannot catch or pass the Celtics: Orl, Atl, NY, Phi, Ind
What About Those Low-Down, Dirty, Preening, Good-for-nothing, Los Angeles Lakers?
While it is possible that the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder could both tie or pass the Celtics to force home-court advantage in a Finals match-up, you know we're all looking at the Lakers. And that story, does not look good, if it comes to a tie.
The Celtics are currently a half game back from LA, but they've also played one game less (LA has played 78 games, Boston has played 77). Boston has a very good possibility of passing the Lakers in the overall standings, as of the two teams, the Lakers have the much harder road. LA will play against playoff teams in 3 of their final 4 games, and even the one team that won't be in the playoffs (the Sacramento Kings) seems to be playing very well of late.
However, if it does come down to a tie, there are going to be issues for the Celtics. The two teams have split their season series with 1 win a piece, so head-to-head record doesn't work. The next tiebreaker is actually pretty hard to find. Try Yahoo! Answers, its not there. Try NBA.com, I couldn't find it. CBS, ESPN, nothin'. Why? Because its pretty freakin unlikely it would even happen, that's why.
But it has happened before. In the 2000-2001 season, the 56-win 26-loss 76ers faced off against the 56-win 26-loss LA Lakers. The teams had split their regular season series with 1 win a piece, so they had to move on to the next available tiebreaker. Apparently it is winning % vs opposing conference. Or, did the Lakers win more games against Eastern teams, or the 76ers more games against Western teams?
Turns out then, like now, the Lakers take the home court. The Lakers were 20-8 against Eastern conference teams while the 76ers were 16-12. Since all the Celtics' remaining games are against Eastern conference opponents (as are the Lakers'), whatever the records are now would stand in a tiebreaker, and the Lakers own that 21 wins to 19 wins for Boston.
Credit Celticsblog Forums user and perennial smarty-pants Roy Hobbs (that's MISTER Hobbs to you.) for that delightful piece of information. (LINK)