NBA Playoffs

Breaking down the seeding scenarios for Sixers at start of season's last week 

Many possibilities are still on the table for the Sixers.

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The NBA regular season has reached its final week and there’s still very little settled about the Eastern Conference standings. 

At 44-35 and on a five-game winning streak, the Sixers are seventh in the conference. As a refresher: If the season ended Monday, the Sixers would host the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game in the play-in tournament. Top-six seeds avoid the play-in. 

Let’s look at what’s left for the Sixers and the teams closest to them in the standings, as well as what scenarios would enable the Sixers to move up:

No. 6: 45-34 Pacers 

  • Tuesday at Raptors 
  • Friday at Cavs 
  • Sunday vs. Hawks 

No. 7: 44-35 Sixers (1 game back of top-six)

  • Tuesday vs. Pistons 
  • Friday vs. Magic 
  • Sunday vs. Nets 

No. 8: 43-35 Heat (1.5 games back of top-six)

  • Tuesday at Hawks
  • Wednesday vs. Mavs
  • Friday vs. Raptors 
  • Sunday vs. Raptors 

The Sixers’ remaining three opponents have a .388 winning percentage, which is tied with the Bulls for the easiest schedule left in the NBA. Miami’s schedule is seventh-easiest and Indiana’s is ninth-easiest.

Team by team, here’s how the Sixers could finish above the squads around them:


Miami still technically “controls its destiny” against the Sixers.

If both teams go unbeaten the rest of the way, they’d each end on 47 wins. The regular-season series was even and the Heat would win whatever the next tiebreaker would be. If the Magic finish poorly, there’s an outside chance Miami would be a division leader. If not, the Heat would still have a superior in-conference record to the Sixers’. 

Of course, the Sixers are currently a half-game up in the standings and have many plausible routes to remaining on top of Miami. 


Indiana won its regular-season series vs. the Sixers, so this is relatively simple.

The Sixers can only top the Pacers by ending with a better record. So the following outcomes would be sufficient: 

  • 3-0 Sixers, 0-3 Pacers 
  • 3-0 Sixers, 1-2 Pacers 
  • 2-1 Sixers, 0-3 Pacers 

Anything else would mean Indiana is the higher-finishing team. 


The 46-33 Cavs have lost three games in a row and don’t yet have a top-six spot locked up. If the Sixers won out and Cleveland lost out, the Sixers would be ahead. 

And as long as the Sixers went 3-0, a 1-2 Cavs finish might also be enough. The season series was a split, which again leads to some convoluted possibilities. Cleveland’s final three opponents are the Grizzlies, Pacers and Hornets. In the event that the Cavs beat Memphis and then lost to Indiana and Charlotte, the Sixers would take the tiebreaker of in-conference record — 31-21 vs. 30-22. 

If the Sixers ended 3-0 and the Cavs’ 1-2 close included a split of those final two games vs. Eastern Conference opponents, we’d move to yet another tiebreaker — record against East playoff teams. 

The bottom line: The Sixers still have a shot to pass Cleveland, though the odds are certainly not high. 


The Sixers surging by the 46-32 Knicks is very improbable. They’d need a perfect homestand and four consecutive New York losses to pull that off.


Orlando also opens the week at 46-32. Since the Sixers have already secured their season series vs. the Magic, the two teams finishing with identical records would be enough for the Sixers.

That means these are the scenarios that could vault the Sixers over Orlando:

  • 3-0 Sixers, 0-4 Magic
  • 3-0 Sixers, 1-3 Magic 
  • 2-1 Sixers, 0-4 Magic 

The Bucks won’t fall below the Sixers, but they’re not exactly sitting pretty at the East’s No. 2 spot following four straight defeats.

By week’s end, everyone will have much more clarity on what’s next.

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