Charlie Krumsiek ‘20
After a thrilling All-Star Weekend and last game before the break, how does the Celtics season look moving forward? They stand at 38-16 as the third seed in the East, 2.5 games behind the Raptors after their 15-game win streak. Two of their starting line-up played in this year’s All-Star game, and they are coming off a week’s rest and a double overtime win over one of the best teams in the West. Jaylen Brown was out with an ankle tweak during that game but hopes to find his way back onto the court immediately following the All-Star break. Gordon Hayward appears to be returning to his pre-injury form and the Celtics have gone 8-2 over their last ten games, including a seven game win streak.
Looking ahead at the final 28 games remaining, they have eleven games against teams in the playoff picture now. Their schedule also includes two four-game road trips, one to the West coast where they will face off with the Lakers for the second time, as well as the surging Utah Jazz. This road trip will likely be a good indication of where they will wind up in the standings at the end of the season. If they can come out of that West coast visit at 4-0 or 3-1, then they can hope to close that 2.5 game gap with the Raptors. The Raptors have a much harder schedule to finish out the season, facing the Bucks three times, the Lakers once, and the second-place Nuggets twice. The Celtics’ biggest test will come in Toronto on March 20, where they can take the season series from the Raptors or Toronto can tie it.
While the Celtics’ goal should be to take the two seed from the Raptors, they need to be careful to maintain their grip on the third seed. If the Heat were to steal the third seed and the Celtics fall to the fourth, then they would be looking at a first-round match up with Philadelphia and a second-round game against the league-leading Bucks. This would be a nightmare for the Celtics and a scenario they will desperately want to avoid. The Sixers have won the season series already at 3-1, are a team built for the postseason, and they will likely be hungry to remind everyone why they were one of the favorites to come out of the East this season. Even if the Celtics could squeak past the Sixers, they would have to face off with one of the best regular season teams in NBA history and their reigning MVP whose play has improved. Letting the Sixers and the Bucks fight it out in a grueling seven-game series would be ideal for the Celtics if they can beat the Raptors on the easier side of the bracket.