As the Pacers prepare to battle the Heat, the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference is in its final stages. Indiana currently has a two-game lead over Miami, but regardless of the result of tonight’s game, home-court advantage in the playoffs will still be very much in the balance.
The No. 1 seed will likely be decided by who takes cares of business against the other teams on their docket. So, let’s take a look at each team’s remaining schedule and discuss which games will either make or break the top seed for both.
Right off the bat, you will notice Miami has the easier go down the stretch. Its remaining opponents’ combined winning percentage is .437 compared to Indiana’s .492.
The Heat have the luxury of facing the lowly Bucks twice and the 76ers in there final game. So, if the Pacers are needing a Miami loss at the end of the season, don’t count on it.
But, Miami’s outlook is not all positive.
The two-time defending champs have to play the Knicks, and while they may be 2-1 against New York this season, Carmelo Anthony and his gang have given Miami problems dating back to last season. New York should still be in the running for the East’s final playoff spot, so Miami will get the Knicks’ best effort.
Another bright spot if you are a Pacers fan is seeing Brooklyn on Miami’s slate. The Nets have caused King James plenty of stress as they are 3-0 versus the Heat this season. They may not be in Celtic green anymore, but Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce still find a way to consistently beat Miami.
The final observation for Miami is even though its schedule appears to be not as daunting, it faces a tough string of back-to-backs (Brooklyn/Memphis then Indiana/Atlanta). How Miami handles that stretch could determine whether they are the No. 1 or 2 seed.
For Indiana, the schedule is definitely a bit hairier.
Going against San Antonio in Indy, at Toronto, at Miami, home against Oklahoma City and at Orlando are five games the Pacers are capable of losing.
San Antonio is playing better than any team in the league right now, as it has won 14 in a row. The Pacers have already lost once in Toronto, so that game is definitely not a gimme. No need to explain why the game in Miami is on this list.
The Thunder already shellacked the Pacers this season. Granted it was on the second night of a back-to-back in the midst of a five-game road trip, but OKC did whatever it wanted, making Indy’s D look completely helpless. Also, the Thunder are only two-games back of the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference, so Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be motivated to win.
Finally, Orlando is deceiving. The Magic play much better than the 19 wins give it credit for, and the Pacers have already stumbled once in the Amway Center this season.
So there ya have it. Obviously, every game remaining is an important one from here on out for Indiana and Miami but a select few will determine who claims home court for the playoffs.