Judging by the persistent questions from Tweeps, it seems there is some confusion about what happens if the No. 5 seed in the East finishes with a better record than the No. 4 seed. This is possible because division winners can finish no worse than No. 4. This season the No. 5 seed could very well have a better record than the Atlantic winner. It’s why the Hawks remain behind the Celtics (and before that, the Sixers) in the standings even though they have the better record, which only adds to the confusion.
I’ve maintained all along that the Hawks would get home-court advantage if that’s the way they finish but the questions persist. So, to put it to rest once and for all, I e-mailed NBA spokesman Tim Frank. His reply:
“Better record always gets home court.”
There it is, plainly stated. The Hawks would get home-court advantage as the No. 5 seed if their record is better than a division winner with a worst record. As it stands now, that means the Hawks would play host to the Celtics in the first round even though the Celtics would have the better seed.
You might ask why reward a division winner the No. 4 seed if it doesn’t get home-court advantage anyway. In practice, it assures that a division winner will face an opponent with no better than the fourth-best record in the conference. Normally that’s not relevant but it can be in a season like this, the best Atlantic teams are bunched together
with so-so records.
Besides, as Josh Smith wryly noted the other day when the topic came up: “They get to hang up a banner.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat