Boston Celtics: Bucks loss presents best-case scenario for playoff seeding

Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics knew last night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks was going to go a long way in determining who would finish as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. While they ended up losing 127-121, things are not as bad as they may seem. In fact, this couldn’t have worked out any better for the Celtics.

Heading into the game, Boston was the No. 2 seed, and they were staring at a potential showdown with the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, which obviously would be less than ideal. Milwaukee was just a half game behind Boston, so them winning pushes them into the #2 seed for the time being. The Celtics now sit in the No. 3 seed with just one game left on their season, and find themselves in the perfect spot heading into the postseason.

I’ve looked at where the C’s should want to finish in the seeding battle and who they should want to play in the first round previously. For what it’s worth, I suggested they should want to finish in either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed to try to set up a first round matchup with the Chicago Bulls. And after last night’s action, that now is the most likely course of action barring something crazy happening over the next few days.

The Boston Celtics are in the perfect position heading into the postseason

There was a lot riding on last night’s Celtics/Bucks game. Whoever won would have the inside track to the No. 2 seed, and while beating the Bucks with a shorthanded squad would have been nice, losing the game helped Boston avoid a potential first round matchup with the Nets, and now Milwaukee finds themselves in a confusing spot in the No.2 seed.

With Jayson Tatum and Al Horford out, it’s clear that Ime Udoka and the Boston Celtics didn’t feel a ton of urgency to win this game because of the potential early matchup with Brooklyn. The Bucks didn’t seem to care, and had pretty much their full complement of players available. You’d think that would result in a fairly uncompetitve game, right? Think again.

Boston managed to go toe-to-toe with the Bucks despite missing three of their five starters. It was a massively encouraging performance given the circumstances, and proved just how good this team is. As far as losses go, this was about as good as they come, both in terms of on court production and the potential playoff ramifications that come with it.

The Bucks are now the No. 2 seed, and all they have to do is win one of their final two games to clinch it. That should happen tonight when they take on the Detroit Pistons. That would set them up for a potential first round matchup with Brooklyn. Having two star studded teams like the Nets and Bucks battling in the first round only stands to benefit Boston, as one of the teams will end up getting sent home early.

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The other piece of the puzzle is the Philadelphia 76ers, whose loss the the Toronto Raptors helped out Boston far more than their own loss. Philly could have moved up to the No. 3 seed had they beaten Toronto, but they ended up losing 119-114. So the Sixers would now need to win both of their remaining games and have the Boston Celtics lose their final game in order to move up to the No. 3 seed.

So basically, Boston is just going to have to win their final game in order to lock up the No. 3 seed, which is great news. Their final game is against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, which seems daunting, but the Grizzlies have already locked up their playoff spot, and may rest their starters given the lack of anything to play for. If the 76ers lose one of their final two games too, that would mean they cannot catch Boston no matter what happens in that game.

There’s still a lot that can happen over the final few games, but right now we are most likely looking at Celtics/Bulls and 76ers/Raptors series’ in the first round. This is great because it allows Boston to avoid the Raptors and playing in Toronto, where they would almost certainly be without some key players due to Canada’s COVID vaccination laws. And, it put Philadelphia in a tougher spot, and they given their struggles lately, they are no sure bet to win that series.

Meanwhile, the Bulls are falling apart, and the Celtics comfortably beat them Wednesday night. Boston should be able to comfortably dispatch a fading Chicago squad and move onto the second round, where they would hopefully be able to get Robert Williams back into the lineup.

Next. Competitive week ahead for the Celtics as playoffs loom. dark

Some of this is still speculative, but with just one game left on the season, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a great spot. They are looking at the seed they want, the opponent they want, and their top competitors are staring at much more difficult paths out of the first round. Things can change, but last night’s loss to the Bucks could have been the best thing to happen to this team.