Commentary

Best playoff paths for East's elite

Updated: April 3, 2013, 9:06 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron JamesAP Photo/Frank Franklin IIMany NBA fans would love to see the Knicks and Heat meet in the East finals. So would the two teams.

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.

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