A New Wrinkle to Tie-Breakers

April, 1, 2009
4/01/09
6:23
PM ET

That is one jammed up standings board, isn't it?

There is an excellent chance that this year, there will be a need for those NBA tie-breakers.

And as commentators note during most broadcasts this time of year, team's head-to-head matchups can really matter in tie-breakers. As can things like record in the conference, points differential, which is a reason to run up the score in blowouts.

But this year, there is one new tie-breaker that trumps all others: If a team has won its division, it is seeded higher than a team that has not won its division.

Apparently this is part of an effort to make divisions matter more.

For instance, it's possible that the top teams in the West would finish this way:

  1. Lakers 64-18
  2. Spurs 53-29
  3. Nuggets 52-30
  4. Rockets 52-30

Under the old rules, the Nuggets would be ranked fourth here -- the first tie-breaker used to be the better record in head to head games. The Rockets have taken this season series three games to one, and should be all set.

But the Nuggets are DIVISION WINNERS, and would therefore get the nod. You can see all the tie-breaker rules spelled out here.

In the East, this is unlikely to be a factor -- the front-running Cavaliers, Celtics, and Magic have all more or less locked up their divisions. And the Lakers are hardly threatened by the Suns in the Pacific. But for the teams in the mix to win the other divisions in the West -- the Spurs, Rockets, Hornets and (charitably) Mavericks in the Southwest, and the Nuggets, Blazers, and Jazz in the Northwest -- there is potentially a big prize out there.

And don't forget that if you win your division, you're also assured no lower than the fourth seed -- although that might not come with homecourt advantage. In every playoff series, the team with the better regular season record gets homecourt advantage.

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