The Celtics and the Sixers are in a virtual tie for first place in the Atlantic Division. That is important because securing the Division title would jump us up from the 7th or 8th seed to the 4th seed. Philly has the edge in tiebreakers and taking a quick look at the strength of schedule reveals that they might have an easier road as well.
The Celtics' remaining opponents own a .554 winning percentage, the strongest remaining slate in the Eastern Conference, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Meanwhile, the 76ers' opponents own a mere .453 winning percentage, the second easiest remaining schedule. Only Milwaukee, which hopes to bump Boston from the postseason, is easier at .442.
So why am I optimistic about the Celtics' chances? Well, despite the Sixers beating us a couple times already, I tend to have more confidence in the Celtics to keep things together than Philly. Zach Lowe takes a detailed look at the Sixers current status.
When the Sixers bolted out of the gate sporting both a top-five offense and a top-five defense, my reaction was, essentially, "let’s see if this team can score efficiently over the long haul." Almost 40 games later, we have our answer: They can’t. The Sixers still have the league’s best defense by a pretty big margin, but they have fallen all the way to 17th in points per possession, and it’s clear they just don’t have enough scoring – in crunch time and otherwise — to compete with the best teams in the Eastern Conference. And that’s too bad, because the Sixers’ offense is a really interesting study in going to stylistic extremes as a way of maximizing talent and minimizing the lack of a consistent individual scoring threat capable of creating efficient offense.
Don't get me wrong, I haven't forgotten the late season fades from the last few years. But it just seems like the team is starting to come together more while other teams are starting to be exposed.