Just like last season, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a tight playoff race entering the final game of the NBA’s regular season. This time, though, they’re sitting in a much higher perch.
The C’s have the chance Wednesday to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since their NBA championship season in 2007-08. But as for who they’ll play in the first round — well, it’s complicated.
The Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat all are separated by just one game for the seventh, eighth, and ninth seeds in the East. Boston is a lock to face one of those teams — the Milwaukee Bucks have clinched the No. 6 seed — but the Celtics’ first-round matchup won’t be set until after Wednesday’s full slate of games.
So, what are the scenarios? First, here’s what’s at stake for the C’s in Game 82.
Clinch No. 1 seed with: Win over Bucks OR Cleveland Cavaliers loss to Toronto Raptors
No. 2 seed: Loss to Bucks AND Cavs win over Raptors
Simple, right? Now, let’s look at the possible outcomes for Boston’s three potential playoff opponents.
No. 7 seed: Win over Atlanta Hawks OR Bulls lose to Nets and Heat lose to Washington Wizards
No. 8 seed: Loss to Hawks, Bulls loss to Nets and Heat win over Wizards OR loss to Hawks, Bulls win over Nets and Heat loss to Wizards
No. 9 seed (eliminated): Loss to Hawks, Bulls win over Nets and Heat win over Wizards
No. 7 seed: Win over Nets and Pacers loss to Hawks
No. 8 seed: Win over Nets and Pacers win over Hawks OR loss to Nets and Heat loss to Wizards
No. 9 seed (eliminated): Loss to Nets, Pacers win over Hawks and Heat win over Wizards
No. 7 seed: Win over Wizards, Pacers loss to Hawks and Bulls loss to Nets
No. 8 seed: Win over Wizards, Pacers loss to Hawks and Bulls win over Nets OR win over Wizards, Pacers win over Hawks and Bulls loss to Nets
No. 9 seed (eliminated): Loss to Wizards OR Pacers win over Hawks and Bulls win over Nets
Got all that?
In short: The C’s have the best chance of playing the Pacers or Bulls, as the Heat are the biggest long shots and need some help to get in. Boston has the beat on the No. 1 seed if it can take care of business against Milwaukee and Indiana controls its destiny for the No. 7 seed, needing only a win over Atlanta.
Who the Celtics would rather face in the postseason is up for debate, but it nonetheless should be an exciting conclusion to the NBA regular season Wednesday.
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images