We’re nineteen days away from the start of the playoffs and, despite a plethora of injuries, the Boston Celtics seem to be locked into one of the Eastern Conference’s top three seeds. As for the rest of the conference, uncertainty looms. CelticsBlog will have a standings and seedings update each Monday from now until the playoffs to keep you posted on changes within the conference, plus potential playoff matchups.
Following their win in Sacramento on Sunday evening, the Celtics sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with 9 games remaining (4 home, 6 away). Their upcoming opponents combine for a winning percentage of .476, which gives them the ninth easiest remaining schedule in the NBA. Boston’s magic number to clinch the two seed is 4 heading into their final 9 games.
The Toronto Raptors currently lead the East at 54-20. Following a loss to the Clippers on Sunday night, they hold a 3.5 game cushion over the Celtics. Their magic number to clinch the number one seed is 4, with 8 games left, but a Boston win in Phoenix tonight would lower their lead to just 3 games.
After their final west coast trip, the Celtics still have two meetings with the Raptors on the schedule, at the Garden on Saturday night and then the following Wednesday in Toronto. It’s not inconceivable that Boston still has a realistic shot at the top of the East standings. The Raptors still have a game in Cleveland and at home vs. the Pacers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers remain in the third spot and trail Boston by 6 games, while the Philadelphia 76ers sit just 1.5 games back of Cavs. Four games separate seeds three through six at the moment, so the Cavaliers, 76ers, Pacers, and Wizards are destined to shuffle places multiple times over the coming weeks.
As for the bottom two slots, it appears that the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks will battle it out for the seventh and eighth seeds, as they’re currently separated by just .5 games. The two teams have 8 and 9 games remaining, respectively, but have none against one another. A Miami loss in Indiana and a Milwaukee win in San Antonio caused a seeding swap on Sunday night, which directly effects the Celtics playoff outlook.
If the postseason were to begin today, Boston would face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. This will change multiple times over the coming weeks, but I’m sure Celtics fans would rather face the Heat than deal with Giannis Antetokounmpo to open up their playoff run.
For now, a win in Phoenix is the next step towards solidifying the Celtics spot among the top seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Tonight’s game tips off at 10:00 PM EST.