Thank you, Miami.
Once the clock ran out on the Nets’ high-paced comeback attempt in Boston, it was on to the Heat game. The best thing the Celts had going for them Monday night, as they watched after their game went final and the Cavs went to overtime, is that Miami’s playoff hopes were on the line. If they lost it was all over.
Cleveland, seemingly apathetic to where they fall in the seeding, sat LeBron James and Kevin Love against a Heat team that had everything to play for. A few stingy stops, a scary Deron Williams four-point play, and some sensational tips by Hassan Whiteside later and Boston was back as the glorious No. 1 seed.
Whether or not seeding is irrelevant to the Celtics’ chances against the Cavaliers, it makes the road to the Eastern Conference Finals far easier. As the one seed Boston will likely get Chicago or Miami in round one, barring wins by both teams and a Pacers loss, both of which they’ve handled in their head-to-head match-ups this year. As the Pacers improve, needing just a win or loss by either Chicago or Miami to hold on to seven, they’ve become a less desirable foe.
Then there’s round two. The Raptors will be the three seed, facing the winner of 2 vs. 7 if they can handle their opponent—likely the Milwaukee Bucks if the Hawks win tomorrow and seal up the five seed. Whoever is No. 1 will see the the winner of Wizards vs. MIL/ATL.
An Atlanta win over Charlotte would also give the Bucks nothing to play for in Boston on Wednesday.
The keys are in Boston’s hands. Toronto brought Cleveland to six games in the playoffs last year. They’ve dominated the Celts for the large part of this season. All the Celts have to do is beat the Bucks, and that will be avoided.
The Cavs will have Toronto on Wednesday. The only way they can get the one seed at this point is if they win that game, against a Raps squad with nothing to play for, and Boston drops against Milwaukee. Whoever is the No. 2 seed will see Indiana in round one.
As for whoever is No. 1, if the Bulls beat the Nets on Wednesday then they will meet Boston or Cleveland. If the Heat can handle the Wizards, also with nothing to play for, and can get Brooklyn to go the extra mile that they couldn’t tonight, then Miami will be awaiting the one.
It was all doom and gloom after the Celts’ loss to Atlanta last week. Two massive wins against Charlotte and Brooklyn later, the East playoffs are on the verge of running through Boston. Are you excited yet?