Boston Celtics: Ranking the C’s 3 most likely first round playoff opponents

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /
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Boston Celtics
Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Boston Celtics potential first round opponent No. 2: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have quietly been one of the most impressive teams in the NBA this season. They have seen a significant exodus of talent in the past few years, with key players such as DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyle Lowry all moving on at one point or another. But with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet leading the way, Toronto has managed to keep themselves a playoff team pretty much the entire way through.

Boston and Toronto split their season series at 2-2, although it’s worth noting the Raps recently needed overtime to beat a Celtics team that was without four of their five starters. While the C’s would certainly be favored to beat the Raptors, they aren’t going to go down without a fight, and there are a couple of factors that make them an unfavorable playoff matchup once things get underway.

For starters, the Raptors are an experienced playoff team. They have a solid core that has played a lot of postseason basketball together, and their coach Nick Nurse is one of the best in the game. That time spent together under the brightest lights is something that cannot be overexaggerated.

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There’s also the COVID vaccine issue. Players who aren’t vaccinated against COVID won’t be able to play away games in Toronto, setting up a scenario where any team that players the Raptors may be missing players for half of the series. Boston’s COVID situation remains eerily vague, and the proposition of potentially missing players such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford (who all missed the most recent game in Toronto) for away games would be catastrophic.

The Raptors currently hold the six seed in the East, but they are in a virtual tie with the Bulls. Based on both teams remaining schedules, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these two squads swap places before the season ends. So if the Boston Celtics are able to hold onto at least the three seed, they should be able to avoid Toronto, which would set them up with a first round date against the…