NBA

Breaking Down the NBA's Remaining Playoff Seed Scenarios

The 1 seed in the East is still up for grabs. Will it be Boston or Cleveland with homecourt advantage throughout?

Tonight marks a very bittersweet night for all NBA fans. It's the very last day of the regular season, but it will give way to bigger and better things in the NBA playoffs.

Before doing so, though, there are still a few things that need to be decided. Three, to be exact.

After 81 games, we still don't know if the Cleveland Cavaliers or Boston Celtics will hold homecourt advantage throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoffs. Like those two teams, we're also awaiting who will be their first round opponents, as the 7 and 8 seeds in the East are yet to be set in stone. And it all comes down to the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat.

In the West, the matchup for the 4-versus-5 game is set. The Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz will face off, but the matter of which team will start the series at home is still unresolved.

All seven teams play tonight. All seven play at home. How will it all shake out?

With some help from our algorithms, let's see what the most likely scenarios are.

Who Will Be Top Dog in the East?

Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers

If:

Celtics win or Cavaliers lose, Celtics are 1 seed

Cavaliers win and Celtics lose, Cavaliers are 1 seed

Our numbers say: The Cavaliers have a 54.6% probability of beating the Raptors while the Celtics have a 74.9% probability of besting the Bucks tonight. At 78.35% odds, the Celtics are very likely to seize the opportunity and take the 1 seed. The Cavs' hopes of doing the same are much slimmer (21.65%).

Who Wins the Battle for the 4 Seed Out West?

Los Angeles Clippers or Utah Jazz

If:

Clippers win or Jazz lose, Clippers are 4 seed

Jazz win and Clippers lose, Jazz are 4 seed

Our numbers say: At 52.9%, the Jazz aren't much better than a toss-up against the San Antonio Spurs at home. The Clippers, on the other hand, are a near-lock (89.5%) to hold down the fort against the Sacramento Kings. If both numbers hold, the Clippers get the 4 seed, which it just so happens we give a 94.7% of occurring.

Which Team Goes Home?

Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat

If:

Pacers lose and both Bulls and Heat win, Pacers are eliminated

Bulls lose and Heat win, Bulls are eliminated

Heat lose OR both Pacers and Bulls win, Heat are eliminated

Our numbers say: Of the three, Miami -- at 59.1% -- is the least likely to get a win in their home game against the Washington Wizards. As for Chicago and Indiana, they sit at 83.1% and 66.5% in home matchups against the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks, respectively.

Accordingly, the Heat are also the least likeliest to make the playoffs, with a probability of just 35.25%. Chicago and Indiana are both above 80% odds to make the postseason. But what are the chances of each team obtaining the 7 or 8 seed?

Team7 Seed8 Seed
Indiana Pacers62.35%20.90%
Chicago Bulls29.35%52.15%
Miami Heat8.30%26.95%


This suggests that the most likely outcome is the Pacers get the 7 seed, the Bulls get the 8 seed, and the Heat get booted from the 2017 playoffs. Basically, it's the outcome if all teams were to secure victories tonight.