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Celtics potential first round playoff opponents - which team is the biggest threat?

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics could very well meet the Hawks in the playoffs againGetty Images

We can talk about what a treat the playoffs will be if the Celtics end up in a series against the Washington Wizards, and eventually the Cleveland Cavaliers, until we’re green in the face.

But the bottom line is the Celtics have to get out of the first round first. If they start thinking about the next series, they may not make it out of the first one - which would be an extraordinary let down after the regular season they've had.

It's true, this year should be a lot easier for them. Two seasons ago they were happy just to be there, and the Cavaliers made quick work of them. Last season, a little slump to end the season put them on the road to begin things against a tough Hawks team.

This season? They're solidifying themselves into that No. 2 spot by the game, and inch closer and closer to the Cavs at the top.

Regardless, with the current No. 5 seed Hawks trailing Boston by 8.5 games, the C's are virtually a lock for one of the top four seeds.

And it just so happens their upcoming schedule lines them up with a few potential first round matchups.

So let's take a look at some of the options as six teams fight for the final four spots.

Atlanta Hawks

Why they are a threat:

Paul Millsap was a stud against the C's in the playoffs last season. The Hawks added Dwight Howard, too, clogging things up in the paint. This would be the toughest matchup for Boston.

Why they aren't a threat:

Well, the Celtics stole one of their best players from last season in Al Horford. And do you really think the C's are going to let Dennis Schroder get the best of them? Not to mention they're struggling down the stretch.

Indiana Pacers

Why they are a threat:

You don't have to tell anybody in the Celtics organization how good Paul George is. The C's rumored interest in the Pacers' superstar is well documented. Jeff Teague is a proven point guard and Myles Turner may be the future of that franchise (if George leaves).

Why they aren't a threat:

The C's just beat the Pacers on Wednesday, and that had Paul George commenting to reporters after the game about Boston's chemistry. In short, the C's have it and the Pacers don't. That's going to show even more in the playoffs. The C's swept them this season, too.

Milwaukee Bucks

Why they are a threat:

Going into Thursday night, the Bucks’ 8-2 record over their last 10 games was the best in the NBA. This is the least familiar East team left on Boston’s radar, as they’ve only played once – a 112-108 C’s win in OT.

Why they aren't a threat:

Talent aside, when it comes down to coaching, it’s really hard to believe Jason Kidd is going to beat Brad Stevens.

Miami Heat

Why they are a threat:

Believe it or not, the Heat are one of the hottest teams in the NBA – no pun intended. On Jan. 13 they were 11-30. Going into Thursday night? 35-36. Can they sustain it?

Why they aren't a threat:

These two teams will meet on Sunday for the fourth and final time. The C’s are 3-0 against them this season. You could say they have the blueprint.

Chicago Bulls

Why they are a threat:

We’ll be honest, it would be a surprise to see the Bulls make the playoffs.

Why they aren't a threat:

Did you see what the Celtics did to them last time? A 100-80 beat-down. Not happening.

Detroit Pistons

Why they are a threat:

Led by Andre Drummond, they rebound well and don’t give up a lot of points. It would be a physical matchup for Boston.

Why they aren’t a threat:

Sure, the Pistons once won a championship without a superstar. But it isn’t going to happen with this team.

 
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