Best playoff paths for East's elite

Many NBA fans would love to see the Knicks and Heat meet in the East finals. So would the two teams. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Just like in the NCAA tournament, seeding matters in the NBA playoffs -- not only because of home-court advantage, but also because of the key differences between different paths to the NBA Finals. In particular, matchups are crucial in the NBA's best-of-seven format.

My research has found head-to-head record during the regular season to be a statistically significant predictor of series outcomes, along with overall ability. Using these factors, and home-court advantage, we can estimate a team's chances of winning any series -- and how much its likelihood of reaching different rounds changes depending on the teams it faces.