Going into the final day of the NBA regular season, the Celtics can still find themselves in one of three playoff seeds and have six potential first-round playoff opponents.
Boston is 50-31 going into the regular season finale, good for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics trail the Bucks for the No. 2 seed by one game while the 76ers tied the Celtics’ record following their victory over the Pacers on Saturday.
With the Bucks, Celtics and 76ers jockeying for the No. 2-4 seeds in the East and four teams sorting themselves into play spots, there are only three teams set in stone in the playoff standings entering Game 82. The Heat have first place in the conference, giving them home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Raptors clinched the No. 5 seed on Friday following their win over the Rockets, which means the Bulls are locked into the No. 6 seed.
For play teams (No. 7-10 in the conference), the Nets, Cavaliers, Hawks and Hornets are all one game apart.
Here are all the possible seeds the Celtics could hold and all the possible opponents they could have in the first round.
How the Celtics could get the No. 2 seed.
- Celtics prevail over Grizzlies, Bucks loss to Cavaliers.
If the Celtics want the highest possible seed, they will need help. Before their game kicks off in Memphis at 7 p.m., the Celtics will need the Cavaliers to defeat the Bucks at home. That game clocks in at 3:30 p.m., so the Celtics know whether their hopes of getting the No. 2 seed or not are still alive about an hour before entering the field on Sunday.
Luckily for the Celtics, the Cavaliers have plenty to play for on Sunday. If they win, they’ll clinch the No. 8 seed or better, which means they only have to win one of the playoff games instead of two to reach the playoffs. On the flip side though, Cleveland has struggled lately. He’s lost eight of his last 10 games as All-Star center Jarrett Allen is out with a fractured finger. The Cavaliers picked up phenomenal rookie forward Evan Mobley on Friday after missing five games, but still lost to the Nets.
The Bucks followed up their Thursday victory over the Celtics with a demolishing win over the Pistons on Friday. Milwaukee has rated stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton as well as Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis as questionable for Sunday, potentially opening the door for the Celtics to slip into No. 2. The Celtics haven’t shared if anyone will be resting again in Sunday’s game. Both Jayson Tatum and Al Horford missed Thursday’s game.
How the Celtics could get the No. 3 seed.
- Celtics win and Bucks win OR
- Celtics loss and 76ers loss to Pistons
How the Celtics could get the No. 4 seed.
- Celtics loss and 76ers win.
A victory for the Celtics on Sunday would guarantee them at least the No. 3 seed via a tiebreaker due to a better division record than the 76ers.
But if they lose to the Grizzlies, who could have star point guard Ja Morant back in the roster, they’ll need help to stay in the top three seeds. The 76ers host the Pistons on Sunday at the same time as the Celtics take on the Grizzlies, so there will be a scoreboard in play to see how things might go.
Even if the Grizzlies don’t play Morant, they’ll be tough to beat. Memphis is 20-4 without its superstar this season, a big reason it has already clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Although the Grizzlies have nothing to play on Sunday, they could choose to play Morant to help him prepare for the playoffs after missing the last nine games. They’ll face the Blazers later on Saturday, so they can share their plans for Sunday shortly after that game.
As for Philadelphia, head coach Doc Rivers did not share how his team will approach the final game of the season following Saturday’s victory. Rivers faced most of his regular rotation players, including Joel Embiid and James Harden, on Saturday.
If the 76ers play their usual rotation of players, Sunday’s game against the 23-58 Pistons might not be a sure thing. They’re fresh off a loss to the Pistons on March 31, and Detroit had some impressive performances down the stretch, beating playoff teams like the 76ers, Raptors and Cavaliers, and playing competitive games against the Heat and Nets.
Who the Celtics could play in the first round.
- If they get the No. 3 seed: the Bulls
- If they get the No. 4 seed: Raptors
In terms of getting the most favorable first-round game, getting the No. 3 seed might be the best-case scenario for the Celtics. They would face the Bulls in that case, who have struggled a lot since the All-Star break, going 7-15 in that streak.
Boston also got to see how it could fare in a potential first-round preview with Chicago on Wednesday, winning 117-94 in a road blowout. The Bulls also announced earlier in the week that they would be without starting point guard Lonzo Ball for the rest of the way, which helped keep their defense together at the start of the season.
Chicago also looks like a very favorable game against Toronto. The Raptors have won 14 of their last 17 games, helping them climb out of the play-in to clinch a playoff berth. Not only are the Raptors a tougher team, but the Celtics could also be left without a key player if they were to face them. Due to Canada’s vaccination mandate, players who are not fully vaccinated cannot play games in Toronto. The Celtics sat out three healthy players (Tatum, Horford and Jaylen Brown) during their game in Toronto in March, leading some to question whether or not they were fully vaccinated. Horford confirmed he was fully vaccinated and Tatum has already said he was vaccinated. Brown declined to say earlier in April whether or not he was vaccinated, citing his role on the NBPA board of directors as the reason.
The Celtics are 2-1 against the Bulls this season and 2-2 against the Raptors.
- If they get the No. 2 seed: Cavaliers, Nets, Hawks or Hornets.
In the scenario where the Celtics get the No. 2 seed, that means the Cavaliers defeated the Bucks on Sunday, putting them in the No. 7 or 8 seeds.
The Nets just need to beat the Pacers on Sunday to clinch the No. 7 seed, so if the Nets and Cavaliers win on Sunday, whoever gets the No. 2 seed will face the winner of Tuesday’s Cavaliers-Nets game. .
But if the Nets lose to the Pacers, who are 25-56 and losers of their last nine, one of the Hawks or Hornets could slip into Tuesday’s game against the Cavs. If the Hawks beat the Rockets, they would face the Cavaliers on Tuesday. If the Hornets beat the Wizards and the Nets and Hawks lost, Charlotte would face Cleveland.
The Celtics hold winning records against the Hornets and Cavaliers this season, but all three matchups against Cleveland have come in 2021. They are 2-2 against the Hawks, but have won their last two matchups, which are occurred after the beginning of their rise in power. Eastern Conference standings.
Boston’s 3-1 against Brooklyn too. While two of those wins came against the Nets without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, both stars played in the last game between the two teams, which the Celtics won.
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