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Do Nets have preferred playoff opponent? Analytics say they should

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Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Assured of a playoff spot after clinching at least the seventh seed on Sunday in Indianapolis, the Nets have one more game to play: Wednesday vs. the Heat at Barclays. It’s likely to be meaningless for Miami —other than Dwyane Wade’s last NBA game— but for the Nets, it will be about who they play in the post-season.

A win before the sold-out Brooklyn crowd —their fourth straight sell-out— and the Nets secure the sixth seed and a trip to Philadelphia this weekend. According to the analytics, the 76ers are the Nets better bet. If they lose, they go north of the border to face the Raptors.

As John Schuhmann pointed out Monday...

They’ll either be the No. 6 or 7 seed and the No. 6 seed might be preferable given that they’ve scored 117.2 points per 100 possessions, the most among all Eastern Conference teams, against the Sixers.

And Brian Lewis noted that and another stat Tuesday morning...

The Nets’ guards have given Philadelphia fits, penetrating at will. Brooklyn’s Offensive Rating (115.4), shooting percentage (.499) and True Shooting (59.7 percent) against the Sixers are all their fourth-best against any opponent.

Also, there’s the most important stat: the Nets are 2-2 vs. Philly. Not to mention that bus rides to Philly are preferable to plane flights to Toronto.

Of course, you will never get Kenny Atkinson to suggest that he wants one team over the other.

“It’s either going to be Toronto or Philadelphia, and quite honestly there’s no preference. They’re both tough matchups,” Kenny Atkinson said on ESPN Radio. “With Philly you’ve got [Joel] Embiid and that [is a] matchup nightmare, and [Ben] Simmons.

“And Toronto is much improved by adding [Marc] Gasol. And you have Kawhi [Leonard] and [Kyle] Lowry and [Pascal] Siakam. They’re a tough matchup for us. We’ve got to approach it like it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve got to rely on our mojo and our momentum, and hopefully that helps us give either of those teams a challenge.”

As for the Miami game, Atkinson was also a bit ambivalent. The Nets might want to rest players.

“This Miami game, it’s complicated. I don’t have an answer for [how we’ll handle it],” Atkinson said. “I think we’ve got to wait until the games are played out. “It’s funny, we thought it was going to come down to the Miami game, be a win and advance or lose and or go home.”

Nope. In fact, everything has to break right for Miami. As Ira Winderman, the Heat long time beat writer, wrote Monday...

-- The Heat to win both Tuesday at home against the Philadelphia 76ers and Wednesday at Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets.

-- The Detroit Pistons to lose both Tuesday at home to the Memphis Grizzlies and Wednesday at Madison Square Garden to the New York Knicks.

-- And the Charlotte Hornets to lose at least one of their remaining two games, Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena to the Cleveland Cavaliers and/or Wednesday at home against the Orlando Magic.

Seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, Atkinson lauded his point guard and noted D’Angelo Russell has added a new title.

“He’s more than just a scorer, he’s more than just an elite passer. You’re a winner. To me, you make the playoffs, you put that on your label on your locker. It’s so hard to make the playoffs. We were so far away these past two years. To make this big jump, that was really unexpected. That makes it all the more sweet.”