The Boston Celtics were the best team in the NBA over the final two months of the season, claiming 32 wins over their final 42 games, and riding their remarkable in-season turnaround to finish as the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
And now they’ll have to suffer the consequences.
… Wait, what?
Yes, the Celtics playing their best basketball down the stretch ironically led to Boston getting the toughest path of any team to reach the postseason — certainly any team with home-court advantage through two rounds. It has the potential and likelihood to be a gauntlet of a stretch through the Eastern Conference with the ability to lose to any of their three potential opponents while also being able to beat each team en route to the NBA Finals.
It will start with Boston’s inevitable first-round draw against the seventh-seeded-but-much-better-than-a-seventh-seed Brooklyn Nets.
Should the Celtics eliminate Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets in their first-round matchup, Brooklyn playing its best basketball of the campaign with a healthy KD and available Irving, Boston then all but certainly can pencil in the Milwaukee Bucks in the semifinal. The Bucks reaped the benefits of grabbing the No. 3 seed in the East with a favorable matchup against the reeling Chicago Bulls on the docket. Will that series even reach a gentleman’s sweep? It feels like a short, much less demanding series for the Bucks. And that alone is a major factor for whoever scratches and claws their way out of the Nets-Celtics.
If Boston advances, the Celtics would benefit from having home-court advantage for a second-straight series. But the reality is that Milwaukee probably benefits from having the best individual in the matchup with two-time MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Can the Celtics beat the Bucks? Well, sure. Again, it feels like they can beat anyone they take the floor against, but there’s no debating the challenge Milwaukee presents. There’s also no debating that having the path of least resistance is helpful in a grinding postseason.
Well, want to know what’s waiting for the Celtics after what could be another seven-game series against Milwaukee? Yeah, that’s the top-seeded Miami Heat. Miami shouldn’t have any problem with its first-round opponent and there’s an outside chance the Heat get the No. 5 seed Toronto Raptors in a semifinal series. After all, are we really that confident in the Philadelphia 76ers?
If so, that’s a series where the Celtics won’t have the home floor after what almost certainly will be two demanding series. But it also may be Boston’s most favorable matchup of its entire run.
And wouldn’t that be another case of irony?