As the playoffs come closer, scoreboard watching now makes sense. At the current time, the Boston Celtics (50-19) are in second place in the Eastern Conference, 1/2 game behind the Chicago Bulls (51-19). The Celtics are also third in the NBA, behind only the Bulls and the NBA-leading San Antonio Spurs (57-13), mere percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers (51-20).
A win over the Bulls in the teams’ final meeting (Thursday, April 7) would give the Celtics a 3-1 series advantage and clinch the tiebreaker should the two teams meet in the playoffs. But the Celtics have already lost the tiebreaker against the Lakers. (OC Register)
Because the Lakers split the regular-season series with both Chicago and Boston, the next tiebreaker for NBA Finals home-court advantage is each team’s record against the opposing conference.
The Lakers are done facing Eastern Conference teams and are 21-9 against them. The Celtics are 17-10 so far against the West, which means they can’t catch the Lakers. But the Bulls are 20-7 with three likely victories still left against West teams: vs. Memphis on Friday, at Minnesota on March 30 and vs. Phoenix on April 5.
If the Lakers and Bulls both finish with 21-9 records against the opposing conference, the next tiebreaker would be … a random drawing! Crazy.
If the Lakers tie with Miami, which is 2 1/2 games behind the Lakers, the Heat would have home-court advantage in that NBA Finals matchup as a result of winning both head-to-head games with the Lakers.
For the East-West tiebreaker to be relevant (and for the Lakers really to lament that three-game pre-All-Star skid in Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland), the Lakers would obviously have to finish the regular season tied with Chicago or Boston. Both the Bulls and Celtics have relatively balanced remaining schedules with regard to home-road and winning-losing teams. The Lakers have a home-heavy schedule (seven of 11 remaining games) but face mostly winning teams (eight of 11 remaining games).
To earn home-court advantage against the Lakers in a possible Finals rematch, the Celtics will need to beat them by at least one game. How important is that one game? Well, you remember last year, don’t you? And you see the Lakers resembling a bulldozer while surging through the Western Conference, right? And you saw the news of Tim Duncan’s injury, no? The Lakers are the clear-cut favorites to win the Western Conference, at least in “the NBA world according to me.” Which means home-court advantage against them could mean the difference between life and death–err, winning and losing an NBA championship.
Earning home-court advantage against the Bulls is obviously crucial. But let’s not forget, doing the same against the Lakers could prove just as important.