We’re almost there Celtics’ fans. A long 2013-14 campaign is nearly behind us and while other teams get to focus on the playoffs, Boston’s attention will turn towards the draft and the offseason where all eyes will be on General Manager Danny Ainge as he decides which direction to take his historical franchise next. When you have a 23-54 record and there are just five remaining games on your schedule, it may seem like the results don’t matter, but for the Celtics, what happens in those games could go a long way towards shaping the future of the team. A single extra loss or victory at this stage of the season could mean a huge difference in the Celtics’ draft lottery chances and with the elite talent at the top of the draft, the team needs to do everything it can to secure one of those coveted top three picks in June.
Currently, the Celtics have the fourth-worst record in the NBA, with just a single victory separating them from the third-worst Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz, who sit in fifth. Just to gauge how important the results of these final games really is, the difference in your odds of getting a top three pick in the draft go from 46.9 percent at third, down to just 29.1 percent in fifth. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the final five opponents for the Celtics this season and what we can expect from these 5 remaining games as we close out the 2013-14 campaign.
First up on Wednesday the Celtics will face off against the Atlanta Hawks, a team fighting for their playoff lives as the New York Knicks try to claim the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks have gone just 3-7 in their last 10 games and have been on a downward slide for some time now. With the talent of Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague, and the desperation of a team fighting for their spot in the post season, the Celtics will be in for a tough battle on Wednesday.
The Celtics will then face the Charlotte Bobcats, who are jostling for playoff position and have been one of the pleasant surprises in the league this season. Big Al Jefferson has been a force for the latter half of the season and the team will be fighting to avoid the seventh seed and a matchup with the Indiana Pacers in the first round. The Bobcats have won four straight and will likely get the best of a weak Celtics’ front line.
The team will then fly to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on the end of a back-to-back. The Cavs have been a huge disappointment this season and are an unpredictable match up at the best of times. They have talent with the likes of Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng, but the team has no chemistry and will once again be in the lottery this season. The likely rest of Rajon Rondo on the back-to-back could be the key to this game.
The most important game may be the second-to-last game against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. The team who matched the longest losing streak in NBA history intentionally traded away quality players at the trade deadline to ensure they would be near the top of the lottery standings and wins have been few and far between ever since. Depending on other results this game could be the key to the Celtics’ final resting place in the standings but Philadelphia has proven time and time again to be an easy beat for nearly every team in the NBA and lightning would have to strike twice as the Celtics already managed to drop a game to the 76ers in their last encounter.
The Celtics close out their season at home against the upcoming Washington Wizards. The Wizards are in a battle with the Bobcats for the sixth seed in the playoffs and that could come right down to the last game of the season. The Celtics’ players will try and give their home fans a final positive note to end a dismal season and there is the potential that the Wizards could rest players if their final seeding is already determined, but the Wizards are a tough team on the rise right now and it will be tough for the Celtics to register a victory in their last game.
Looking at that breakdown, it appears that the most likely scenario for the Celtics as they close out the season is a 1-and-4 result, with a victory over the 76ers seeming the most likely. If Ainge or his coaching staff decide to sit players strategically or the team has checked out early (they have lost their last eight games straight) they could be looking at overtaking the Magic for third position in the reverse-standings and increasing their chances at a franchise changing player in the draft. You never want to root for your team to lose, but with just 5 remaining games and nothing to gain from a victory, closing this season out win less and forgetting about 2013-14 altogether may be the best result for everyone in the long run.