Early this month the Celtics were feeling pretty good about themselves, riding a 5-game winning streak and streaking into the 3rd seed in the East. Then the Cavs served up some humble pie, and Jae Crowder got hurt, and the team suffered through a 4-game losing streak. Thankfully, a couple of wins vs. the Sixers and Magic have us fans breathing a small sigh of relief, but there's still plenty of work to be done before the playoffs.
I thought this would be a good time to look at that schedule and the potential impacts it could have on our seeding. As of today (3/22) the Celtics are technically the 5th seed, but we might as well call it a 4-way tie for 3rd since the Heat, Hawks, Hornets, and Celtics are all within half a game of each other.
Here's the full remaining schedule.
- Wed, Mar 23 vs Toronto
- Sat, Mar 26 @ Phoenix
- Mon, Mar 28 @ Los Angeles
- Thu, Mar 31 @ Portland
- Fri, Apr 1 @ Golden State
- Sun, Apr 3 @ Los Angeles
- Wed, Apr 6 vs New Orleans
- Fri, Apr 8 vs Milwaukee
- Sat, Apr 9 @ Atlanta
- Mon, Apr 11 vs Charlotte
- Wed, Apr 13 vs Miami
The Celtics host the Raptors (who have owned the Celtics this year) on Wednesday and then set out on a 5-game West coast road trip. A few of those games will be very winnable (Suns, Lakers), and the Celtics have played the Blazers and Clippers well this year, but weird things can happen on long road trips, and things can go sideways fast. (Note: As old friend Jon Duke points out, Golden State is looking to break the '86 Celtics home wins record. Boston plays them on April Fools Day. Hmmm.)
The Pelicans don't have anything left to play for and are missing Anthony Davis, so hopefully the Celtics won't fall asleep at the wheel at home. The Bucks are a little tougher but likewise won't likely be playing for anything but draft position at that point.
The last 3 games could be very interesting, however, because it features 3 of the teams with whom we're battling in the playoff seedings. If the standings remain as tightly packed as they are now, those games could determine most of the first-round pairings.
If the Celtics aren't the 3rd seed, they might be better off dropping to the 6th seed because whoever wins the 4/5 matchup will have to play the 1 seed (likely to be the Cavs). On the other hand, with the Raptors playing the Celtics so well, I'm not sure if that matchup favors them much better than Cleveland.
As an aside, I haven't done much (ok, any) research into this, but my guess is that the C's struggle against the Raptors because Toronto's guards are so good. The Cs' strength is in guarding other teams' backcourts, but if you can break past that outer wall, then perhaps the rest of the defense suffers as a result. It doesn't help that DeRozan thrives in the mid-range game, a shot that most modern defenses are allowing teams to take. That's just blatant speculation on my part, but something to research at a later date.
It is important for the Celtics to finish strong, but not at the expense of injuries or general health. I would assume the team will take a cautious approach with Jae Crowder and monitor the minutes of the rest of the rotation players accordingly. I'd rather have a fresh 6 seed than a burnt out 3 seed any day.
Still, if the Celtics can win a few more of these games going down the stretch, they could secure home court advantage for the first round.