NBA Notebook: Handicapping the NBA playoff races heading into Orlando

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The NBA became the first of the three major American sports leagues to put specific matchups on the calendar Friday night with their release of the eight remaining games for all 22 teams taking part in the Orlando bubble. We took a closer look at the Celtics schedule already this weekend but there are plenty of other races that will have a direct impact on the C’s and the league at large once games resume on July 30th. Let's get to all of them.

Race for 4-6 seeds (No. 6 seed is potential first-round opponent for Celtics)

4. Miami 41-24: Opponent winning percentage: .636, SOS Rank (2)
5. Indiana 39-26: .562 (13)
6. Philadelphia 39-26: .506 (21)

Analysis: When the NBA season was suspended on March 11th, the Celtics were lined up for a brutal first-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 3-6 matchup. However, that’s a scenario that is unlikely to take place when taking into account the revamped schedules. Not only do the Sixers have a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for the Orlando bubble, but they will also have the second-easiest schedule out of any team in the league, with five of those opponents coming against sub .500 teams.

The Pacers meanwhile face a middle-of-the-road schedule but will still be shorthanded in their frontcourt with starting shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (torn ACL). Victor Oladipo’s status for the season’s resumption is also up in the air, according to the former All-Star as he works his way back into form after a season-ending knee injury last season. The Sixers have not had much chemistry all season long but they are well-positioned here to move into the 4/5 matchup assuming they can take care of business against inferior teams.

No team in the league was hurt more by the shortening of the schedule than the Miami Heat, though. They went from having a league-average schedule to finish the year to the toughest slate in the NBA thanks to the fact than most of their subpar opponents won’t be qualifying to play in Orlando (the eight worst teams). That should provide the C’s with some confidence that they will be able to rest some of their talent liberally (if needed) and still hold onto the No. 3 seed thanks to a 2.5 game lead. A head-to-head matchup between the two teams in early August could make things tighter but only a disastrous eight games would put Boston at risk of dropping down to the 4/5 spot.

Race 7-9 seeds (No. 7 seed is potential first-round opponent for Celtics)

7. Brooklyn 30-34: .544 (19)
8. Orlando 30-35: .551 (16)
9. Washington 24-40: .578 (10)

Analysis: It’s a bit wild to see