The Boston Celtics are going to enter the 2023 NBA Playoffs as one of the favorites to go on a championship run. The C’s have followed up their Finals run from last year by going 52-24, and with six games left on the season, it’s seeming increasingly likely that they will enter the playoffs as the number two seed out of the Eastern Conference.
There are obviously quite a few reasons for optimism in Boston as the playoffs roll around. The Celtics have one of the deepest teams in the league, led by superstars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and they are about as healthy as they have been all season long. They also have the second-best record in the entire league, and their Finals pedigree from last season could serve them well in the playoffs.
Still, with the playoffs right around the corner, it feels like the Celtics are in a bit of a rut. They are just 8-6 since the All-Star break, and they have lost some very winnable games along the way. Boston could still technically win the one seed in the East, but it would take a miracle at this point, and it feels like their failure to land the one seed could come back to haunt them.
Celtics could seriously regret losing the one seed
For much of the first half of the season, the Celtics were in control of the one seed in the East. But with their struggles, and the Milwaukee Bucks hitting their stride at the perfect time, they have lost their hold of the top seed in their conference. Boston is three games behind Milwaukee for first place, while holding a two-game lead and the tiebreaker over the Philadelphia 76ers for the two seed.
Being the two seed is nothing to scoff at heading into the playoffs. The Celtics would end up playing the top team to come out of the Play-In Tournament in the East, and they would have home-court advantage in at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. But this season, it could end up being a death sentence.
With the way the seeding works right now, Boston’s most likely first round opponent would be the Miami Heat. The Heat haven’t been as good as they were last season, when they battled the C’s in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series, but Miami always plays the Celtics tough. To meet them in the first-round of the playoffs would be a nightmare.
Beyond that, being the two seed in the East likely means that you will have to go through both the Sixers and Bucks just to make it to the Finals. The top three teams in the East might be the top three teams in the entire league, so being the one seed, and having the ability to avoid both these teams until the ECF at the earliest, is a massive advantage.
For much of the season, that looked to be a luxury the Celtics would find themselves with. But they have begun to fall apart, and with the Bucks playing such good basketball as of late, it’s tough to feel extremely confident in this team entering the playoffs. The Bucks will be heavily favored to win their first two series of the playoffs, compared to the Celtics who are currently in line to face a pretty daunting gauntlet of opponents.
It’s strange that the Celtics haven’t shown much interest in their seeding considering it might have saved their season last year. They won a pivotal Game 7 at home against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semis, and while they did manage to win Game 7 on the road against the Heat to advance to the Finals, it’s a lot easier to win at home than on the road in the postseason.
When comparing the two potential paths in the playoffs, the Bucks clearly have a much easier road than the Celtics as the one seed, which is very frustrating. Boston could have at least been in position to make Milwaukee sweat it out if they were able to win their contest on Thursday night and hold the tiebreaker between the two squads, but their loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night essentially rendered this game meaningless.
It’s all part of a concerning trend for Boston as the playoffs near. They haven’t been able to meet the heights they were hitting earlier this season, and with the Bucks rolling, and a tough playoff slate staring them down, it’s going to be a big challenge for this team to reach their ultimate goal. The Celtics ceiling is incredibly high, but without the help of the one seed in the East, they may not be able to reach that ceiling, and that’s a truly frightening realization with the regular season very nearly over.
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