The Sixers have had the one-seed in the East confidently locked up for about a week now, but they can officially do so tonight with a win against the Pacers or with losses from each of Brooklyn (@ CHI) and Milwaukee (vs. ORL).
The team also announced today that under new city guidelines they’re permitted to increase attendance to 50% (up from 25%) for the first round of the NBA playoffs. With the Sixers owning a stronger home-court advantage at the Wells Fargo Center than most teams in the league, any increase in capacity amplifies the team’s already-existing advantage with the one-seed (the rich get richer here).
Keeping an eye on Miami @ Boston (7:30 tip)
As we go through the formality of clinching the top spot in the conference, the far more important matchup for the Sixers tonight is taking place up in Boston where the Heat and Celtics will battle to stay out of the play-in tournament. If Miami wins they clinch no-worse than the six-seed in the East, meaning they avoid the play-in tournament and ultimately avoid a first-round clash with the Sixers. If Boston wins, they pull within a game of Miami and own the tiebreaker between the two—keeping the possibility of a Sixers-Heat first-round matchup very much alive (a nightmare scenario).
As we rightfully celebrate locking up the one-seed in the East, Sixers fans ought to be laser focused on how that matchup plays out and who ultimately ends up in that seven-seed. As much as we take comfort in the advantages that home-court will provide us through the playoffs, that edge could take a serious hit if we draw a difficult matchup in the first and second rounds—for more on which matchups we want to avoid, you can find that here.
Home-court advantage in the Finals
It’s worth noting that, while the team has essentially sealed their standing in the East, they’re still jockeying for home-court advantage in a potential Finals appearance. Utah has a fairly safe 2.5-game lead on the Sixers, and Phoenix has what seems like an attainable 1-game lead, but owning the tiebreaker more or less puts them out of our reach with just four games remaining.
Perhaps more important, the Sixers have a 2-game lead over the Clippers (the West three-seed) and a win tonight will all but guarantee home-court advantage over them in a potential Finals series. In my eyes, the Lakers and Clippers are still the two most likely teams to come out of the West, and extending home-court advantage to the Finals shouldn’t be slept on as the Sixers lock it up through the East.