Celtics close out season on top, shoots for post-season run
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As of April 11, the Boston Celtics own the best record in the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). As of Tuesday night, the Celtics have a game in lead for the East, however they are only barely in front of the recent NBA Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. To take the Eastern Conference title in the regular season, all the Celtics have to do is win their last game against the Milwaukee Bucks. If the Celtics lose and the Cavs win their final game, the Celtics fall to second in the East.
When asked about the current situation, Head Coach Brad Stevens told Celtics media that, “The focus for us has to be the things we can control.”
Last year, the Celtics rode into the playoffs as a fifth seed, drawing the Atlanta Hawks, who promptly beat them in a hard-fought six game series. This year, the Celtics look to build upon this and win a round, or potentially two, in the playoffs.
The Celtics are in a good position to do this, as they will play a bottom seeded team. If they finish second in the East, the most likely scenario for the green, they will draw the seventh seed. In this case, it will most likely be the Indiana Pacers led by small forward and star player Paul George. If the Celtics manage to leap the Cavs, they will host the eighth seed and final playoff position. The eighth seed is up for grabs, as the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls seem to be battling for that spot up until the final game.
Either scenario for the Celtics would be favorable to win a round. They will host the first two games at the TD Garden as well as games five and seven, if necessary. This bodes well for the Celtics, as they have a 28-11 record at home. In addition to this, the Celtics overall talent with rising superstar point guard Isaiah Thomas, as well as pieces around him like power forward Al Horford, small forward Jae Crowder, and shooting guard Avery Bradley vastly outweighs the talent of the Heat, Indiana Pacers, and the Bulls.
Some people may argue that the Celtics should shoot for the stars this post-season, however the goal for them should be to win a round or two. Stevens may agree with this statement as well. The coach was quoted from the Boston Herald saying that the Celtics are, “Not as good as our record,” also noting that the Celtics are, “A long way to be what I think is competitive at a necessary level to be really good when it’s all on the line.” The Celtics recently showed that statement is indeed true when they had a chance to beat Cleveland to take the top spot in the East and failed miserably, losing by 23 at home.
With that being said, this post-season will not be a total failure regardless of the outcome. Young players such as rookie and emerging talent Jaylen Brown will learn about what it takes to win high-stake games. In addition to this, Thomas will learn more about how to win in the playoffs, which is something he has yet to do. As much of a star as Thomas is, playoff experience is something he lacks. A playoff run where the Celtics could steal a couple rounds may provide him with the experience every player needs to win.
One thing working for the Celtics is that the pressure is off of them and on Cleveland more than ever. Coming off a big win on the road against the Celtics, the Cavs yet again proved that they are still atop the mountain in the Eastern Conference. Now that everyone knows this again, people are expecting the Cavs will take the East. The Celtics have no pressure from national media to make an impact in this postseason, so if they go out and play loose, it could result in a postseason surprise.
The NBA playoffs will begin on April 15 for the best basketball team Boston has seen in terms of overall record since Shaquille O’Neal wore green.