The road to and through the playoffs is going to be determined in these last eight regular season seeding games for the Boston Celtics.
The Boston Celtics have more to play for than just getting into the playoffs during these last eight games of the regular season restart beginning at the end of July, as they have the opportunity to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics are currently in third place in the East, holding a 43-21 record and only three games behind the defending champion Toronto Raptors for the second seed as we inch closer to the NBA’s restart and playoffs.
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In the eight remaining regular season games prior to the start of the playoffs, the Celtics will be up against the Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies and the Washington Wizards.
All of which are winnable games, the most challenging being the Bucks, who have already solidified the first seed in the playoffs. Following the mighty Bucks are the Heat, who are surging right behind the Celtics in fourth place, and the Raptors, who defeated the Celtics in their last matchup during Christmas weekend.
Although nothing is etched in stone yet, landing the second seed is most important as it would give the Celtics a path to avoid Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks for as long as possible throughout the playoffs.
Playing as the second seed would also give the Celtics a much more favorable route to the Eastern Conference Finals.
As it now stands (as the second seed) the C’s would have a first-round match up with the Nets, who are just barely holding onto the seventh seed. Or the Magic, who are in a great position to win out over the Nets for the higher of the last playoff seeds.
If the Celtics are unable to top the Raptors for the second seed, the road through the playoffs as the third seed is a more challenging and frustrating road to travel upon to get through just the start of the playoffs.
The first team the Celtics would see as the third seed – and quite possibly fear the most – are the 76ers. The biggest struggle the Celtics will have to overcome is the overall height of the 76ers. Between Joel Embiid (7’0”), Al Horford (6’9”), and Ben Simmons (6’10”), the 76ers are skyscrapers compared to the Celtics.
If the Celtics happen to fall into the fourth seed, things begin to get more interesting and possibly more challenging for their playoff run as the middle half of the Eastern Conference is relatively tight.
The Indana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers have the same 39-26 record heading into the NBA’s eight remaining regular season seeding games, which leaves a huge unpredictability factor as to what to expect from the middle to bottom half of the East.
Although the Pacers have height of their own in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, the potential of a first-round matchup against the Pacers is more manageable for Boston than it would be against the 76ers.
If the Celtics want to secure a long playoff run, it’s in their best interest to take advantage of the current situation and try to lock up the second seed during these last eight regular season games.
A task that is by no means going to be easy, but the Celtics can take advantage of utilizing their full roster, which includes players like Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall who are both on two-way contracts between the Boston Celtics and Maine Red Claws.
Having a player trending upwards like Waters on hand during a time where the status of Kemba Walker is essentially day-to-day or even unknown at this point is going to work into the Celtics’ favor during the remaining regular season games. Waters also adds depth to the team as we could see the potential for early load management for some players prior to the playoffs.
Using the same logic for Waters can be looked at very similarly for Fall, who gives the Celtics a huge 7’6” competitive advantage under the basket and as a rim protector. Regardless of what people may think about Fall, he has improved tremendously during his time in the G-League this season and can offer the Celtics some valuable minutes down the stretch of the regular season.
All in all, the Boston Celtics are poised to make a strong playoff run regardless of their seeding, but the second seed would be the best route for the Celtics to take this time around.