The top five teams in the Eastern Conference have clinched their playoff seed, but the last three seeds are up for grabs between Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit.
The Pistons’ ideal first-round opponent is Orlando, which has the third seed. The Pistons have played the Magic extremely well because Detroit doesn’t have to double team Dwight Howard.
Boston, the second seed, would be the Pistons’ second-best option with Kevin Garnett out or still affected by a knee injury.
Cleveland, the top seed, is the worst-case scenario. The Cavaliers have the league’s best record. There’s no clear vulnerability here.
So, there’s no trick here for positioning. The more the Pistons win, the better chance they have to get a more favorable first-round matchup.
If Chicago beats Detroit tonight, the Pistons will be the eighth seed and face Cleveland in the first round. So, since that’s so simple, everything going forward assumes Detroit wins tonight.
Philadelphia wins at least one
If Philadelphia beats either Boston tomorrow or Cleveland on Wednesday, the 76ers are guaranteed the sixth seed an a first-round matchup with Orlando. Philadelphia holds the tiebreaker Detroit and Chicago or if all three times are tied.
If Detroit beats Miami or Chicago loses to Toronto on Wednesday, the Pistons would be the seventh seed and face Boston in the first round.
Detroit would hold the tiebreaker over Chicago because they have a better conference record than the Bulls.
If the Pistons loses to Miami and Chicago beats Toronto, Detroit would be the eighth seed.
Philadelphia loses two
If Philadelphia loses to Boston tomorrow and Cleveland on Wednesday, Detroit would have more room to climb in the standings.
A win over Miami would give the Pistons the sixth seed. A loss to Miami and a Bulls’ loss to Toronto would give Detroit the seventh seed.
If the Pistons lose to Miami and Chicago beats Toronto, Detroit would be the eighth seed.