Paul Flannery has an interesting article on playoff seeding and asks a pertinent question. Should the Celtics even bother playing for a better seed?
If they do pass and hold off the Sixers, they are likely to be matched up with the Pacers in the first round. (Read the whole thing, but Flannery takes it from there)
If they were able to get by the Pacers — no sure thing — they would likely play the Bulls, another team that has been a matchup nightmare. The Celtics were able to win the last meeting behind a Rajon Rondo triple-double (not to mention the absence of Derrick Rose), but Chicago has won four of the last five meetings and none of those games have been particularly close. Whoever doesn’t win the division is likely to get the seventh seed, which would likely mean a first round series with the Heat. There’s also a chance that either Philly or Boston could catch the Hawks for the sixth seed. You can make the argument that the Celtics matchup better with Miami than Chicago, but the Heat have won six of the last seven games, including last year’s playoff series. However you look at it, trying to position yourself for a matchup is a fool’s game. There are simply too many variables beyond your control.
On one hand, you could argue that playing a more-heavily-flawed team like the Pacers in the first round would be better than having to play the Heat or Bulls right off the bat. On the other hand, I kind of feel like we're going to have to go through one or both of those teams eventually, so who cares when you play them? Besides, if this team is going to win a Championship, they are going to have to beat the best.
But as Flannery points out, all this is foolishness this far out. The team should be playing to win games. On the flipside, they should also be walking that line between keeping guys healthy and rested while keeping everyone sharp (keeping in mind that there are few, if any, practices).