Boston Celtics: Crunch time in final throes of regular season

Mar 31, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts after his three point basket against Utah Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio (16) in the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts after his three point basket against Utah Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio (16) in the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Confusing as the Boston Celtics can be on a game-to-game basis, they have a chance to put a solid stamp on the 2022-23 regular season this week.

The looming question in the next seven days: where in the top-3 seeds will the Boston Celtics land?

After a 2-1 performance last week, including an inexcusable loss to Washington followed by a 41-point victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics find themselves behind the eight ball. The Bucks will head into the final week two games up over Boston with four left to play.

The Celtics, meanwhile, hold a three-game lead over the no. 3 seed Philadelphia 76ers and look to keep momentum going strong with seeding on the line.

Boston Celtics: Final week of games

The 76ers are first up in the final slate of four games, on Tuesday (4/4) in what will be Boston’s final road game of the regular season. And with it, the opportunity to lock up at least the Eastern Conference’s no. 2 seed with a victory.

Expectations should be high for the Celtics this week. Boston has not lost to any of their upcoming opponents in ’22-23, picking up three victories over Philadelphia in a variety of ways.

To open the season, Boston won by nine. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 35 points, combining to shoot 27-44 from the field.

The next victory over the 76ers might be the most impressive. Already down three starters, that’s the game Brown left early after colliding with Tatum. The bench stepped up in that game, contributing 41 points, and Derrick White scored 19 in a seven-point win.

A 110-107 victory was the result in the most recent meeting between the two teams. Brown scored 26 and Tatum had 18 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists.

Philly is coming off a 13-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, who have two road games and two home games left on their schedule.

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Back-to-back games against the Toronto Raptors are up next, on Wednesday (4/5) and Friday (4/7). Toronto has played Boston close, losing two games by a combined eight points.

Tatum had 31 points and 12 rebounds in the first meeting but did not play the second. Brown had 27 in the second meeting, with Grant Williams (25 points) having one of his best outings of the season.

Closing out the regular season will be a home game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday (4/9). The Celtics rolled in the first meeting, with nine players scoring in double figures. The bench trio of Sam Hauser, Payton Pritchard, and Luke Kornet combined for 44 points in that game.

In the recent meeting, Tatum had 34 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists, with Brown scoring 24 and dishing out seven assists.

The two stars have been dynamic and when both are firing on all cylinders, this team is nearly impossible to defeat.

Player spotlight for Boston Celtics

Tatum, it appears, has found the stroke that has often eluded him since his MVP performance in the All-Star game.

In last week’s three games, Tatum averaged 35.7 points per game. In the victory over Milwaukee, Tatum scored 40, knocking down 8 of 10 from three-point range. He capped off the week scoring 39 against the Jazz, making five of eight from deep.

There was also the rebounding edge Tatum continues to provide, averaging nearly 10 game last week. Effort in all aspects is what’s been prevalent in the growth of Tatum’s game this season. And while there have been hiccups, and struggles with his shot, Tatum has mostly found ways to contribute and make his teammates around him better.

Brown had 30 points against Milwaukee but was dealing with back soreness in the victory over Utah. While he struggled from the field (4-12, 12 points) others picked up the slack. Aside from Tatum and Brown, three other teammates reached double figures in helping close the night out on a strong note. Especially important as it was the second night of a back-to-back.

Plus, it helps that Blake Griffin is there to provide the perfect veteran spark this team needs down the stretch.

Griffin has been a steady force, whether it’s sitting on the bench for weeks at a time or being thrust into a starting role. He had 12 rebounds and 5 assists against the Jazz and, in both victories, gave the Celtics needed swagger and energy. Calling him an “enforcer” might be stretching the title but Griffin exudes a toughness Boston has been missing.

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Crunch time is here for the Boston Celtics. It’s time for that completely dialed-in version of the team to show up every night. The top-seed might not be reached but a perfect week in the win column will give Boston all the gasoline they need to race into the playoffs.