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What impact do divisions have on regular season records and seedings?

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Warriors went 15-1 in the Pacific Division and the Raptors 12-2 in the Atlantic Division to help pad their records. Divisions can also influence playoff seedings.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat played in a competitive division this season, while the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics' Atlantic Division included the three worst teams in the Eastern Conference: Knicks, Nets, 76ers. Similarly the Golden State Warriors' Pacific Division featured the L.A. Clippers as the only other winning team.

Divisions still matter in how many times one team faces another during the season. They may influence the final won-loss record, where a couple of games won or lost make the difference in seedings or history books. Would the Warriors been 15-1 versus division rivals in the Northwest or Southwest divisions and had a chance at 73 wins?

The flip side of the coin is asking whether the 14 other Western Conference teams would have had better records this season, had the Warriors and Spurs not been so dominant? The 76ers' futility helped Eastern Conference teams pad their records by a game or two.

DIVISION WON LOST
Atlantic Totals 164 237
Central Totals 215 185
Southeast Totals 214 186
Northwest Totals 198 204
Pacific Totals 194 207
Southwest Totals 217 183
Atlantic minus Raptors 110 211
Central minus Cavs 159 161
Southeast minus Heat 167 153
Northwest minus Thunder 144 178
Pacific minus Warriors 122 198
Southwest minus Spurs 152 168

For the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic was by far the softest division, while the Central and Southeast teams had about the same amount of wins and loses as a group. The Heat's won-lost record is better than it seems, because the Orlando Magic had the best record of any sixth-place team among NBA divisions.

One cautionary fact for the playoff results is the Heat were only 23-22 against .500+ record teams over the entire season. In the Eastern Conference three other teams, the Cavaliers (28-13), Raptors (28-16), Hawks (28-18), had better success against playoff-bound squads and semmingly have better odds to reach the NBA Finals. All the other EC teams have losing records playing teams over .500.

The Heat's mediocre record versus winning teams serves as a reminder their talent alone won't get Miami past the first round, unless they dial up their intensity to championship levels.

Miami was 25-5 when they had fewer turnovers than their opponent, which is the best in the East and trailed only the Warriors 31-3 record in the entire NBA. On the Heat, the guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, are the main culprits in coughing up the ball because they are the primary ball-handlers. The Heat's success in the playoffs depend on them not dribbling around the court into traps or attempting impossible passes in a crowd.

During the regular season, the Heat faced the best and worst teams in the NBA. In the playoffs they will compete only against other proven winners. In the second season teams cannot inflate their records against low-quality teams like they can during the regular season records and escape with a title.

The second season will be another animal altogether for Miami, where they need to improve their 23-22 record against winning teams. Hopefully their recent successes will carry over for the post-season to exceed expectations of a first-or-second round exit.

Conference Tiebreaker Rules

Division standings may matter for teams finishing with the same record in their conference. The official rules in case two or three teams in the Eastern Conference finished tied are (including match-up refreshed daily):

TIEBREAKER BASIS FOR TWO-WAY TIES:

  1. Tie breaker not needed (better overall winning percentage)
  2. Head-to-head won-lost percentage
  3. Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division
  4. Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division
  5. Conference won-lost percentage
  6. W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, own conference
  7. W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, other conference
  8. Net Points, all games

TIEBREAKER BASIS FOR MULTI-WAY TIES:

  1. Tie breaker not needed (better overall winning percentage)
  2. Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division
  3. Head-to-head won-lost percentage
  4. Division won-lost percentage for teams in the same division
  5. Conference won-lost percentage
  6. W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, own conference
  7. W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, other conference
  8. Net Points, all games