clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Trail Blazers Can Win Division But Lose Home-Court Advantage

New, comments

The Blazers still control their own destiny for playoff seeding. But if the worst happens and they lose to the Jazz in Portland on Wednesday, they can get a huge assist from the Pelicans.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE (2:04 PM): BLAZER’S EDGE WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG. The NBA has updated their chart to correct the error noted by Eric Griffith below.

Note that the NBA’s chart is NOT accounting for potential home-court advantage irregularities that may occur — specifically if the Blazers and Spurs have identical wins, the Spurs will open at home, regardless of seeding.


UPDATE (1:10 PM): The NBA released a table clarifying various seeding scenarios. Unfortunately, that table appears to be in conflict with the league’s rules and the procedure used to break a four-way tie in the Eastern Conference in 2016.

I don’t know what to believe anymore.

(Text in photo from NESN article linked below.)


Here’s the good news BlazerManiacs: The Trail Blazers still control their own destiny in the battle for playoff seeding, despite the loss to the Nuggets earlier tonight. If Portland beats the Jazz on Wednesday night they will have 49 wins and finish as the outright 3-seed with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Here’s the bad news: If the worst happens and the Blazers lose their fifth consecutive game on Wednesday in the Rose Garden they can finish anywhere from third to fifth. The Pelicans can help the Blazers out in this scenario — if the Spurs lose on Wednesday the Blazers will have home-court advantage regardless of all other outcomes. But If the Spurs beat the Pelicans and the Jazz beat the Blazers, then the Blazers will start the playoffs on the road against the Spurs.

And there is one best case scenario in which the Blazers could lock up home-court advantage and the 3-seed BEFORE they play the Jazz on Wednesday:

Below is a rundown of all possible scenarios for the Blazers.

How the Blazers Can Lose to the Jazz and Hang on to the 3-Seed

The Blazers can still finish with the 3-seed even if they lose to the Jazz if all of the following also happen:

  1. The Jazz lose to the Warriors on Tuesday
  2. The Thunder beat the Grizzlies on Wednesday
  3. The Blazers lose to the Jazz

If that happens the Blazers, Jazz, and Thunder will all have 48 wins and be in a 3-way tie for the Northwest Division title and in 4-way tie with the winner of the Pelicans/Spurs game for the 3-6 seeds.

Per NBA rules, division winners automatically win multi-team ties so the 3-way tie for the Northwest Division win would be broken first by cumulative head-to-head record (see bottom of article for complete tiebreaker rules).

The Blazers would have a 5-3 record in games against the Thunder and Jazz, while the Jazz would be 4-4 and the Thunder 3-5. The Blazers would win the division and get the 3-seed automatically. Then the Thunder and Jazz would enter another 3-team tiebreak with the Pelicans or Spurs to determine seed 4-6.

In either case, the Thunder would finish with the fourth seed, the Jazz would finish with the fifth seed and they would face off in the 4/5 first round matchup. The winner of the Pelicans/Spurs game would finish in sixth and play the Blazers in round one.

How the Blazers Can Win the Division But Lose Home-Court Advantage

Here’s the kicker: If the Spurs beat the Pelicans they would have home-court advantage in the first round against the Blazers despite being the lower seed since they won the regular season series 2-1.

So for the 3-seed to carry any practical meaning in this scenario, the Blazers will need the Pelicans to win on Wednesday, setting up a first round matchup against New Orleans instead of San Antonio.

Here’s the memo from the league explaining that home-court advantage is decided by head-to-head regular season record when teams with identical wins face off in the playoffs (huge thanks to Mike on Twitter for making me aware of this). This is similar to the scenario in 2015 when the Blazers snagged the fourth seed by virtue of their division championship but seeded home-court advantage to the Grizzlies who had won more games in the regular season.

In short, if the Blazers and Spurs play each other in the first round and both teams have 48 wins the Spurs will have home-court advantage, regardless of seeding.

Worst Case Scenario — 4-Seed or 5-Seed and No Home-Court Advantage

  1. Blazers lose to Jazz
  2. Spurs beat Pelicans
  3. Jazz beat Warriors OR Thunder lose to Grizzlies

If either of these scenarios occur the Blazers will be end up tied with the Spurs with 48 wins. The Jazz will win the division either outright with 49 wins or by virtue of a head-to-head tie with the Blazers, while the Thunder slide to sixth or lower with 47 wins or by finishing last in a multi-team tiebreaker.

This will leave the Blazers and Spurs matched up in the 4/5, handing home-court advantage to San Antonio, regardless of seeding.

Middle Ground: A 4-Seed and Home-Court Advantage

The Blazers will finish with the 4-seed and home-court advantage if the following happen:

  1. Blazers lose to Jazz
  2. Pelicans beat Spurs
  3. Jazz beat Warriors OR Thunder lose to Grizzlies

In this scenario the Jazz will win the division with 49 wins or by head-to-head tiebreaker with the Blazers and take the 3-seed.

The Blazers will finish in a tie with the Pelicans or the Pelicans and the Thunder. Portland will hold on to the fourth seed since they beat both New Orleans and Oklahoma City during the regular season series. The Blazers would play the Pelicans WITH home-court advantage since both teams would have 48 wins but Portland won the regular season tiebreaker.

Scoreboard Watching Guide for Blazers Fans

Here’s what to cheer for if you’re a Blazers fan. First, the obvious:

  • Blazers to beat the Jazz on Wednesday (outright 3-seed AND home-court advantage with 49wins)

But if you’re worried about the Blazers losing, then cheer for the following:

  • Pelicans to beat the Spurs. (Blazers finish with home-court advantage, even if all the other games go wrong.)

And here are some secondary rooting interests to keep the 3-seed in play:

  • Warriors to beat the Jazz on Tuesday (Keeps a possible third seed in play)
  • Thunder to beat the Grizzlies (final piece of the puzzle for the Blazers to get the 3-seed if all other outcomes are “right.”)

Game-by-Game Final Seeding Scenarios

(Remember that if two teams are tied their head-to-head regular season results will determine home-court advantage.)

Head-to-Head Tiebreakers

NBA Tiebreak Procedure

Source (Note that there is an outdated link from 2010 floating around. The rules were changed in 2015 and that page is now inaccurate.)

Ties for playoff positions (including division winners) will be broken utilizing the criteria set forth in subparagraph a. below (in the case of ties involving two teams) and subparagraph b. below (in the case of ties involving more than two teams), and the guidelines set forth in subparagraph c. below.

a. Two Teams Tied. In the case of a tie in regular-season records involving only two teams, the following criteria will be utilized in the following order:

(1) Better winning percentage in games against each other.

(2) Division winner (this criterion is applied regardless of whether the tied teams are in the same division).

(3) Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if tied teams are in same division).

(4) Better winning percentage against teams in own conference.

(5) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in own conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).

(6) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in opposite conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).

(7) Better net result of total points scored less total points allowed against all opponents (“point differential”).

b. More Than Two Teams Tied. In the case of a tie in regular-season records involving more than two teams, the following criteria will be utilized in the following order:

(1) Division winner (this criterion is applied regardless of whether the tied teams are in the same division).

(2) Better winning percentage in all games among the tied teams.

(3) Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if all tied teams are in same division).

(4) Better winning percentage against teams in own conference.

(5) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in own conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).

(6) Better net result of total points scored less total points allowed against all opponents (“point differential”).

c. Guidelines For Applying Tie-Break Criteria. The following guidelines shall be used when applying the above criteria to break ties for playoff positions:

(1) (a) Ties to determine the division winners must be broken before any other ties.

(b) When a tie must be broken to determine a division winner, the results of the tie-break shall be used to determine only the division winner, and not for any other purpose.

(2) If a tie involves more than two teams, the tie-break criteria in subparagraph b. shall be applied in the order set forth therein until the first to occur of the following:

(a) Each of the tied teams has a different winning percentage or point differential under the applicable tie-break criterion (a “complete” breaking of the tie). In this circumstance, the team with the best winning percentage or point differential under the criterion will be awarded the best playoff position, the team with the next-best winning percentage or point differential will be awarded the next-best playoff position, and so on, and no further application of the tie-break criteria will be required.

-- OR --

(b) One or more (but not all) of the tied teams has a different winning percentage or point differential under the applicable tie-break criterion (a “partial” breaking of the tie). In this circumstance: (x) any team(s) that performed better under the applicable criterion than any other team(s) will be awarded a higher playoff position than such other team(s); and (y) teams that had equivalent performance under the applicable criterion will remain tied, and such remaining tie(s) will be broken by applying, from the beginning, the criteria in subparagraph a.(1)-(6) above (for any remaining tie involving only two teams) or subparagraph b.(1)-(5) above (for any remaining tie involving more than two teams) and the guidelines set forth in this subparagraph c.

(3) If application of the criteria in subparagraph a. or b. does not result in the breaking of a tie, the playoff positions of the tied teams will be determined by a random drawing.