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The playoff format was modified, as only the divisional champions qualified automatically; two wild-cards were also added from each conference. Once qualification was determined, the four qualifiers were seeded 1–4 based on record; divisional position no longer mattered. The #1 seed then played #4, and #2 played #3. Because of this new format, New York, the Atlantic Division runner-up, had home-court advantage versus the Baltimore Bullets, the Central Division champion, since the Knicks had the better regular-season record. The Bullets had home-court advantage in the 1972 playoffs versus the Knicks and in the 1971 playoffs versus Philadelphia, even though their record was worse than New York's and Philadelphia's were those seasons, because they had won their division, while the Knicks and Sixers were runners-up.
This was the second straight time (and third in the last 4 years) that the Lakers and Knicks met in the Finals; the Lakers–Knicks rivalry ended with two titles won by the Knicks and one by the Lakers. L.A. returned in 1980; New York waited until 1994.