With six games left, there’s still no guarantee about who the Brooklyn Nets will play in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, but it’s looking increasingly likely that they’ll see the Chicago Bulls.
Here’s why: the Nets are currently the fifth seed, Bulls currently hold the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Toronto Raptors with a 45-32 record. The Nets are the fifth seed, 2.5 games back from Chicago, and 2.5 games ahead of the Washington Wizards, who currently hold the sixth seed.
Here’s the remaining schedules for each of those four teams:
April 9th: vs. Philadelphia 76ers (17-60)
April 11th: vs. New York Knicks (33-45)
April 13th: @ Detroit Pistons (28-49)
April 14th: vs. Milwaukee Bucks (14-63)
April 16th: @ New York Knicks (33-45)
April 9th: @ Minnesota Timberwolves (38-38)
April 11th: vs. Detroit Pistons (28-49)
April 13th: @ New York Knicks (33-45)
April 14th: vs. Orlando Magic (22-55)
April 16th: @ Charlotte Bobcats (39-38)
April 8th: @ Miami Heat (53-23)
April 9th: @ Orlando Magic (22-55)
April 11th: vs. Atlanta Hawks (34-42)
April 13th: vs. Orlando Magic (22-55)
April 15th: vs. New York Knicks (33-45)
April 16th: @ Cleveland Cavaliers (31-47)
April 9th: vs. Charlotte Bobcats (39-38)
April 11th: @ Orlando Magic (22-55)
April 12th: vs. Milwaukee Bucks (14-63)
April 14th: vs. Miami Heat (53-23)
April 16th: @ Boston Celtics (23-54)
Right off the bat, you see the Raptors have the easiest schedule: their biggest foe is the Knicks, who despite thrashing the Nets so badly you’d rather look at puppies (PUPPIES!), are still out of the Eastern Conference playoff race. They’re the only team in this race that doesn’t face a team over .500 for the rest of the year.
Even if you assume the Raptors lose one of their games (which I wouldn’t), the Bulls would have to win outright in a schedule with two playoff teams.
For the Nets to win the division, they’d have to play three games better than the Raptors on this schedule — meaning that the Raptors would have to go 2-3 and the Nets 6-0 for the Nets to win the division, or 1-4 and 5-1, or 0-5 and 4-2. Not happening. The Raptors play the 76ers and the Bucks, and have you seen the 76ers and Bucks!? Of course you have, and you still don’t remember who they are. Go ahead, name five players on both teams combined without looking, and you have to spell every last name.
Similarly, the Bulls would have to outplay the Raptors to earn the third seed, and though their path is less drastic — they’d need to hit just one more game, since the two have identical records — but the Bulls have two games against teams with a plus-.500 record.
The Raptors hold the tiebreaker over the Nets and the Bulls, so should the teams end the season with identical records, the Raptors would still finish as the third seed. That leaves Brooklyn fifth and Chicago fourth, meaning that home-court advantage would go to the Bulls should the series head to a Game 7.
So though anything is possible, because this is basketball and the world of basketball often doesn’t make sense, the most likely scenario by a long shot is that the Toronto Raptors will win the Atlantic Division, and the Nets will face the Chicago Bulls, on the road, in Game 1 of the playoffs.