The Boston Celtics are currently third in the Eastern Conference, but the second seed is within reach. Moving up a spot could mean an easier playoff run.
They are just 1.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the second seed in the East, and the importance of leapfrogging them cannot be emphasized enough.
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Should the Celtics stay as the third seed, or even fall to the fourth seed, they will face a formidable opponent in the first round of the playoffs that can give them a serious run for their money.
The possibilities include the Miami Heat, the Indiana Pacers, or the Philadelphia 76ers. All three have a winning percentage of .582 or better.
If they play their way into the second seed, they would likely face either the Brooklyn Nets or the Orlando Magic. At the risk of sounding dismissive, it’s safe to say that neither of these two teams are going to make much noise in the playoffs. They both have losing records and are significantly worse on paper than anyone ahead of them.
Getting the second seed would also assure that they avoid playing the Milwaukee Bucks until the Conference Final if the Celtics are able to make it that far.
Barring an extraordinary dip in play, the Bucks are going to be the number one seed. They are by far the best team in the NBA as of right now and it would be shocking to see them eliminated in the first two rounds.
Both the Celtics and the Raptors have tough opponents remaining on the schedule and play each other just one more time. The Raptors won’t let up easy, but it’s hard to bet against the Celtics given how well they played prior to the All-Star break. They will have to maintain that level of play going forward.
That means that we will need to see more stellar performances by first-time All-Star Jayson Tatum. In the month of February, Tatum is averaging 28.3 PPG while shooting 49% from the field. Tatum putting up numbers like that makes this team a whole different beast.
Hopefully, after Walker recovers the core of this team will all be healthy at the same time more often. Better luck with injuries is essential for the Celtics if they are to steal the second seed from Toronto.
The Celtics have more to prove despite how much they have already exceeded expectations. The road to the Eastern Conference Finals is easier traveled as the number two seed, and they will need to provide their best efforts in order to earn that spot.