BOSTON — The Celtics didn’t get the best news for their immediate future Wednesday night. As for their offseason outlook? That’s a different story.
The C’s staged an incredible comeback against the Miami Heat in their regular season finale, erasing a 26-point first-half deficit to earn a 98-88 win in front of a raucous TD Garden crowd. Yet despite pulling off the largest comeback in the NBA this season, Boston’s win coupled with an Atlanta Hawks loss sealed its fate as the No. 5 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, meaning the Celtics’ postseason starts on the road against the No. 4 seed Hawks.
But if a tough first-round matchup against Atlanta has Celtics fans feeling down, another result Wednesday should cheer them up: The Brooklyn Nets ended their season with a loss, securing the NBA’s third-worst record in the process.
The Celtics, of course, own Brooklyn’s first-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and the Nets’ impressive tanking efforts increases Boston’s chances of getting a top-three pick via the NBA’s Draft Lottery on May 17.
Brooklyn had owned the NBA’s fourth-worst record ahead of the Phoenix Suns, but the Suns reeled off three wins in four games to bump the Nets down a peg. That’s great news for the Celtics, as the gift that keeps on giving could yield its biggest prize yet.
Let’s hit a few other notes from Boston’s season finale:
— Apparently the C’s are contemplating sending their lone All-Star to the NBA Draft as a good luck charm.
— The Celtics finished their 2015-16 campaign with a 48-34 regular season record, notching a .585 winning percentage at 14 games over .500. That marks an eight-win improvement from last season and an impressive 23-win improvement from the 2013-14 campaign, Brad Stevens’ first as head coach.
— Boston’s epic comeback wasn’t without incident, as the two teams got into a bit of an altercation at the end of the third quarter. Heat guard Goran Dragic’s body check on Marcus Smart apparently sparked the issue.
Smart and Dragic both received technical fouls as a result, and Evan Turner and Udonis Haslem both got T’ed up. That set the stage for Turner’s ruthless comment about the incident after the game.
— The Heat had a reason for frustration after the third quarter, as they scored a total of five points on 2-of-20 shooting in the frame. Unfortunately, they’re not the first team to do that this season, as the Denver Nuggets managed just five points in a quarter against the Dallas Mavericks back in November.
— Jae Crowder hasn’t been 100 percent since returning two weeks ago from a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for nearly a month. And with the playoffs looming, it sounds like he’ll just have to tough things out.
“I think I’m as good as I’m going to be,” Crowder said after Wednesday’s game. “I’m able to play with it. I know what I can and can’t do at this point. Moving forward, I think it’s getting better, for sure. I’m going to keep doing the stuff the training staff is telling me to do. I’m going to take these next few days and really get it prepared for a series in the playoffs.”
— Isaiah Thomas added to his hardware Wednesday by winning the Red Auerbach Award, presented annually by the Celtics to the player who “best exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be a true Celtic through performance on the court and off.”
Thomas accepted the award in a pregame ceremony as a host of Celtics legends who played under Auerbach looked on.
“I guess I’m up there on their level now,” Thomas joked. “Nah, I’m just playing. It means a lot, just to be able to get any award named after somebody that’s a legend like (Auerbach). I’m blessed.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
The Brooklyn Nets bench looks on as they take on the Boston Celtics during the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Nets 120-95.
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