With the Pistons locked into the No. 2 seed, it's clear that the only thing left to play for is guaranteeing home court advantage should they advance to the NBA Finals. This obviously entails finishing with a better record than any team in the West, which, for the moment, means the Pistons are watching the scoreboard every time the Hornets take the court. As things stand right now, both teams are tied with a 55-23 record.
What happens if things stay this way and they finish with identical records? I've already been asked this question a few times over email, so I figured I'd remind everyone what the NBA's tie-breaker scenarios are: (Update: In hindsight, the more I dig, the more I think I whiffed on this explanation. Head to head is definitely the first tie-breaker, but the rest of these only apply to conference foes -- and in the case of No. 2, division foes. So what's the real answer? I'm working on it.)
- Head to head record.
- Division record.
- Conference record.
- Record against playoff teams in own conference.
- Record against playoff teams in the opposite conference.
- Point differential for the entire season.
So how do the Pistons stand against the Hornets? I could have stopped with the first tie-breaker: Detroit is 2-0 against the Hornets this year. There are three teams sitting just two games in back of the Hornets with four games left to play. It's unlikely they'll overtake the Hornets, but just in case they do, here's where Detroit stands:
San Antonio Spurs: Pistons swept the season series, win the tie-breaker.
Los Angeles Lakers: Pistons and Lakers split the season series. Pistons have a .666 (10-5) winning percentage against division; Lakers, .714 (10-4). The Pistons have just one division game left (@ Cleveland in the season finale), while the Lakers have two ("@" Clippers tonight; Sacramento in the season finale). Conference record is also too close to call (Detroit is 34-15; Lakers, 33-15). This is one to watch.
Houston Rockets: Pistons and Rockets split the season series, but the Rockets are just 8-8 in their division, so the Pistons would win this tie-breaker.
Phoenix Suns: The Suns are 2.5 games behind the Hornets, but just to be thorough I'll point out that the Pistons swept the season series, thus winning a hypothetical tie-breaker.
Utah Jazz: Sitting three games back, there's almost no chance that the Jazz can pull ahead of the Hornets, which is good considering they swept the season series against Detroit.
So there it is: the Pistons still control their own destiny in terms of home court advantage.
To be honest, though, I'm not sure how important home court really is for the NBA Finals. While the first three rounds of the playoffs use a 2-2-1-1-1 format (with the better seed getting Games 1-2, 5 and 7), the Finals still use a 2-3-2 format. There are advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios, but I honestly think I'd prefer playing three straight at home, even if that means opening the series on the road.