The Boston Celtics had a question to answer Sunday entering their regular-season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies, and head coach Ime Udoka offered his answer.
The Celtics will go with their regular starters, with the possible exception of Al Horford (back soreness), when they take on the Grizzlies. Perhaps that’s the rather obvious answer for many, but given that a win Sunday could cause Boston to draw the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the answer wasn’t thought to be so easy.
“We’re going to play our guys,” Udoka said on a pregame video conference, before noting Horford would test out his injury during shootaround. “But other than that, regular starters.”
The Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday meaning the Celtics can climb to the No. 2 seed in the East with a win. With a Boston loss, along with a win by the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics then would drop to the No. 4 seed. A Celtics loss and 76ers loss would keep Boston as the No. 3 seed, arguably the best-case scenario.
“I mean, we haven’t predetermined, gone into anything. There’s still seedings and standings that we can play for,” Udoka said. “So play the game normal, normal as planned, and then see what happens from there.”
Boston earning the No. 2 seed means they will play the winner of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 NBA Play-In game, which will feature Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets against the Indiana Pacers. And while from the outside that has felt like the worst option for the Celtics, Udoka pushed back on Boston’s result directly correlating to that.
“We’ve talked about it and looked at all scenarios and, you know, it’s not all relied on what we do,” he said. “Other teams can affect that as well. So obviously Milwaukee, Philadelphia still playing soon and so we looked at every scenario and what we kind of concluded was let’s do what we do. And health and playing our best basketball, as I’ve mentioned, is the main focus.
“With all these variables still playing and teams behind us still jockeying, it’s hard to manipulate anything,” Udoka said. “… Yeah, and that’s the thing, like, everybody’s talking about Brooklyn, but they have a play-in game to win. Some teams can run from certain things and end up that team not even being there. So we’ll do what we do and kind of let chips fall where they may.”
Celtics-Grizzlies is set to tipoff at 7 p.m. ET.