The Celtics have seemed to found their stride just in time. With 11 games left in the season, the players are understanding their roles better with the addition of Hayward and the young guys adapting to Kyrie’s playstyle again after his absence in the playoffs. Although, the Celtics have had their ups and downs throughout the season. The Celtics have proven they can run with the juggernauts in the East, like the Bucks, Raptors, and Sixers, but tend to lose some games which are winnable. After the All-Star Break, I put out an article about the Celtics season after the break and big games to watch out for later in the season. So far, three of the big games I pointed out have been played, with the Celtics going 1-2 in those games (beating the Warriors, and losing to the Bucks and Raptors). The Celtics have yet to play the Sixers (this Wednesday) and the Pacers two more times. The Celtics split the season series with the Raptors and are 1-2 against the Bucks. After the break, the Celtics lost the games that count, but beating the Warriors is definetly a moral booster. The team has found a little trouble handily beating the Eastern teams, with their wins are usually closer games. So, the seeding for the Eastern Conference Playoffs becomes more important by the game.
Top 8 in East:
- Milwaukee Bucks (52-18) (25th Hardest Remaining Schedule)
- Toronto Raptors (49-21) (29th Hardest Remaining Schedule)
- Philadelphia 76ers (45-25) (28th Hardest Remaining Schedule)
- Indiana Pacers (44-26) (6th Hardest Remaining Schedule)
- Boston Celtics (43-28) (14th Hardest Remaining Schedule)
- Detroit Pistons (36-34) (12th Hardest Remaining Schedule)
- Brooklyn Nets (36-36) (THE Hardest Remaining Schedule)
- Miami Heat (33-36) (10th Hardest Remaining Schedule)
The playoff system works in that the winners of the 1-8 seed series will play the winners of the 4-5 seed series, while the winners of the 2-7 seed series will play the winners of the 3-6 seed series.
I don’t see the Bucks giving up their spot at the top of the standings. It also seems unlikely that the Raptors lose the 2nd seed to the Sixers, since they stand four games ahead of Philly. Between now and the playoffs, the 3-5 seeds and the 6-8 seeds are having their own race for their top respective seeds.
The Raptors have seemed like more of a threat than the Bucks this season to the Celtics. By looking at past games, it’s hard to tell which team is a better matchup for the Celtics, but the Raptors look like a better team than the Bucks. While Giannis is a player nobody in the NBA can cover one on one, the matchups seem better for the Celtics when against the Bucks. The Raptors bench is stronger than the Bucks, and the Raptors can close out a game with their star power. That is not something I have seen players on the Bucks do too often. Because the Bucks seem like the easier opponent for the Celtics and I believe that they will finish with the 1 seed, that means that the Celtics should target the 3 seed.
The Sixers, Celtics, Bucks, and Raptors are the best teams in the East. The Celtics getting the 3 seed would force the Sixers and Raptors to play each other (assuming they both win in the first round). The Celtics getting the 3 seed would also make a Celtics-Pistons matchup and a Bucks-Heat matchup (with the current standings) in the first round. Assuming both the Celtics and Bucks win, they would both play each other in the second round. I think that this would be more favorable than a Celtics-Raptors matchup with Bucks-Sixers on the other side.
To get the 3 seed, the Celtics would need to win most of their last 11 games. The Celtics can definitely take the 4 seed from the Pacers, but taking the 3 will be more of a challenge. We play the Pacers two more times this season, which are both must-win games. We play the Sixers on Wednesday as well, which is also a game we need to win in order to move up in the standings. The Sixers have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NBA, so winning the upcoming games is a must.
Getting the 3 seed will be crucial to make a deep playoff run. Our second round will likely be a difficult start of the journey to the Finals, but it only will get harder from there. This team has adapted throughout the season and can get to the ECF once again!