As we head into the final weekend of the NBA’s regular season, there’s still plenty at stake for the Boston Celtics. But make no mistake about it: they are in a good position.
Unlike the “other” team they share the TD Garden with, the Celtics have overachieved this season and turned what most thought would be another lottery-bound season into an exciting, fun run toward playoff contention.
With four games remaining, the 36-42 Celtics currently hold the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, edging the same-record Nets through a head-to-head tiebreaker. The Pacers and Heat are both within one game of the Celtics and Nets.
The Celtics also hold the tiebreaker over the Pacers, but the Heat hold it over the Celtics.
To sum that up, the Celtics will make the playoffs over the Nets or Pacers if those teams end up with the same record after 82 games. The Heat would make it over the Celtics if those two teams had the same record.
One thing we now know for sure: the 8 seed will play the Atlanta Hawks, and the 7 seed will play the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs locked up the 2 seed on Wednesday night, which is actually a good thing for the Celtics' chances. Boston plays Cleveland twice over the next three days, a home-and-home series that means a lot for the Celtics, but not much for the Cavs anymore.
In fact, LeBron James hinted after Wednesday’s game that he might sit out the games against Boston to rest up for the playoffs. That would be huge.
The C’s then have two more games left, against the Raptors at home and the Bucks on the road.
There’s no telling which seed the C’s will end up with – if they even end up with one at all. But here’s a question we never thought we’d be asking ourselves: Which playoff seed should they want?
The case for/against Atlanta: This has been the best team in the East pretty much all season. They ripped off a staggering 19 wins in a row at one point. While they had four All-Stars this year, they don’t have a superstar. In that sense, they’re kind of like the Celtics 2.0. Brad Stevens and Jared Sullinger have called the Hawks a “machine”, and that sums them up. But Boston beat them, 89-88, in mid-February and may match up better against them.
The case for/against Cleveland: And just like that, the Celtics-Cavaliers rivalry is back! Well, not quite – but LeBron James will always have a thing going against Boston based on the past, and it will undoubtedly be re-fueled in a playoff matchup. But the Cavs have the star factor: James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. It may just be too much for these Celtics to handle.