To start, I use "we" to describe the Knicks. If this bothers you, I would recommend not to read this.
We are the 2 seed currently by % points as of after the OKC game on 3/7/2013. I am conceding the 1 seed to MIA. They are 8 games up with 23 left to play. This means if we went 23-0, MIA would need to go 15-8 down the stretch for us to grab the 1 seed. Miami is currently on a 16 game win streak, so I am throwing the 1 seed out of this equation.
@ Golden State
@ Oklahoma City
13 road games vs 10 homes games.
Before we get to IND and the 2 seed battle, we need to worry about the Atlantic Division. The first tiebreaker for non Division teams is that a Division winner is seeded above a non Division winner even if they have the same record.
We are 3 games up on BK and 4.5 up on BOS.
Division records (1st tiebreaker for inter-division teams)
NYK is 6-6
BK is 9-3
BOS is 6-5
We have 4 games left in division to make up 3 games back on BK with no head to head matchups left. That means most likely, unless BK goes cold against division foes, we aren't getting that tiebreaker. So if we tie for the Atlantic Division with Brooklyn, it's very likely BK takes the division.
Let's say we go 13-10. That puts us at 50-32.
BK would need to go 15-6 to tie us at 50-32.
BOS would need to go 17-5 to tie us at 50-32.
BK has games @ATL, vs ATL, @LAC, @DEN, vs CHI, @BOS, @IND that could be considered tossups and worse for them. They also go on an 8 game road trip in March ending with the first game of April.
BOS has games vs ATL, @OKC, vs MIA, @MEM, vs NYK, vs ATL, @ NYK, vs BK, @ MIA, vs IND that could be considered tossups or worse for them. BOS has no long road trips that us or BK have.
From the above, I am fairly confident we take the Atlantic Division going 13-10.
Now back to IND and the 2 seed:
Again, hypothetically we go 13-10, putting us at 50-32. That means IND has to go 12-9 down their stretch. If we are fighting for the 2 seed, both of us are leading our division. The next tiebreaker is head to head which we are down 2-1 in but have 1 game remaining. Let's say we win, the next tiebreaker is conference record which we are 24-13 and they are 25-13. (If we factor in our hypothetical win over IND it becomes 25-13 us and 25-14 them.) After this tiebreaker it goes to W/L % vs playoff teams in conference. I'm not going to try and calculate this yet.
IND has has remaining schedule with games: @MIA, @CHI, vs ATL, @LAC, vs OKC, vs BK, @NYK, vs BK. These are the games I regard as tossups or worse for them. As you see, they really don't have a tough schedule like ours and they go on a 4 game road trip.
To add more fun into the race we are 3.5 games up on ATL and 4 games up on CHI. From this, I don't think 13-10 gets us the 2 seed, and 13-10 opens the door for ATL or CHI to steal the 3 seed from us. To add to the mayhem even more, IND plays vs BK, @NYK, @BOS, vs PHI to close the season, meaning in certain scenarios we might be rooting for Boston, Brooklyn, AND/OR Indiana as the season ends.
In the end, a 2/3 seed is very important for the Knicks. Dropping to the 4 seed means if we win first round, we go straight to Miami. I don't want to face Miami in the 2nd round. Dropping lower than the 4 seed means we might avoid Miami in the second round but also means we are entering the playoff probably playing sub .500 basketball. Keeping the 2/3 seed means Miami is only there if we reach the conference finals. That 3 game buffer from the 4 seed to the 7 seed is very important. One bad losing streak, and we can join the mess of teams fighting for 4 through 7. The best playoff road comes if we stay out of that mess and grab a 2 or 3 seed.
Thanks for reading, and let me know if I'm wrong with any of the numbers.