The Nets have a lot at stake Wednesday night: with four potential games affecting their seeding, there’s still a chance they could be the fifth seed or the sixth seed, and face either the Chicago Bulls or the Toronto Raptors. It’s a little complicated, but here’s a quick breakdown below of all the possibilities.
If the Nets Win: They’re the fifth seed. Period. They’ve got a one-game lead on the Washington Wizards, who are currently the sixth seed, and no matter what the Wizards do, the Nets can clinch the fifth seed with a win.
If the Nets Lose: They’ll probably be the sixth seed. The Wizards are playing the 25-56 Boston Celtics, who are expected to rest Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger, and Jerryd Bayless, along with already missing Gerald Wallace and Vitor Faverani. They’re not a great basketball team. If the Wizards beat them, they’ll tie the Nets in the standings, and the Wizards own the tiebreaker, giving them the fifth seed. But if the Wizards somehow lose to the Celtics, the Nets will keep the fifth seed.
So who will they play?
Good question. The Raptors and Bulls are both in play for the third and fourth seeds, which means that the Nets could end up playing either team no matter where they end up.
They’ll Play The Bulls If:
1) The Nets win, and the Bulls & the Raptors both win OR both lose.
2) The Nets & the Raptors both win, & the Bulls lose.
3) The Nets & the Wizards both lose, and the Raptors win.
4) The Nets, Bulls, Wizards, and Raptors all lose.
They’ll Play The Raptors If:
1) The Nets & Bulls both win, and the Raptors lose.
2) The Nets lose, the Wizards win, and the Bulls & the Raptors both win OR both lose.
3) The Nets, Wizards, & Raptors all lose, and the Bulls win.
Got all that?
What about future rounds? If the Nets are the fifth seed and make it to the second round, barring an upset they’ll face the Indiana Pacers, who have clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Nets fall to sixth and make it to the second round, barring an upset they’ll face the Miami Heat in the second round.
Both have their own challenges. The Pacers are in the midst of a free-fall in the past two months, with both on-court and off-court issues, but they swept the Nets in the regular season. The Miami Heat are the two-time defending NBA champions, but the Nets also swept them in the regular season.
With that said, if the Nets want to make a deep playoff push, they’d almost assuredly have to beat both of those teams anyway. That’s what a championship run is, it’s taking down the teams in your path, teams that get better and better as you go through. So whichever “side” of the bracket they end up on, they’ll still have to face the top teams in the East if (and that’s a much bigger “if” than it is a “when”) they somehow progress towards the NBA Finals.