The Celtics are currently in sole possession of the 8th playoff spot. A lot could change between now and the end of the season. Any prolonged losing streak could drop them right into the lottery. However, if certain key events fall a certain way the Celtics could move right up the Eastern Conference standings.
In their final 12 games, the C’s face seven opponents with losing records and five with winning records. If they can win seven or eight of those games (including two huge must-wins over the Bucks and games against the Heat and Pacers), the sixth seed is in sight.
It seems ridiculous to think about this under-.500 Celtics team as a 6th seed, even in the weak East, but there's a (very small) chance it could happen. The 6 seed is currently held down by the Bucks who are a game below .500 and just beat the 7th seeded Heat on a miracle 3 pointer last night. The Celtics face that same Heat team tonight so they could at least pick up some ground on the 7th seed.
All of which begs the (previously unfathomable) question: Who would you rather face in the first round?
The Atlanta Hawks have the best record and have been one of the two best teams in the league all year. They have struggled recently, losing 3 straight and 5 of their last 10, but when they have things clicking they look like the Spurs of last year.
The 2nd seeded Cleveland Cavs struggled early in the year but are rolling now and happen to employ a certain guy named LeBron James who has had his share of success in the postseason.
Those are the two most likely foes and neither one looks beatable in a 7 game series, but I guess you can never say never. Now if the Celtics somehow claw their way up to the 6th seed, then things get really interesting.
The Bulls, Raptors, and Wizards are separated by only 3 games and any one of them could theoretically be the 3rd seed. None of them are playing particularly well right now and all seem beatable in the first round (under the right circumstances). How excited would you get about Brad Stevens drawing up plays for Isaiah Thomas and in the 4th quarter of a close game 7?
All of which is putting the cart a few hundred feet in front of the horse. The Celtics have to keep winning the games in front of them, starting with tonight. It will help getting Isaiah Thomas back but they can't afford any more flops like the Pistons loss in the coming weeks. They can't afford to look ahead in the standings.
We are allowed to look ahead though. As fans it is still fun to dream and hope for the best in the future. We've kind of been taking it as a given that if the Celtics are lucky enough to get into the playoffs that their stay would last no longer than a maximum of 6 or 7 games. But there are some fun "what if's" to ponder as we watch the scoreboards and standings in the next few weeks.