Jaylen Brown’s play of late has helped the Celtics gain the Eastern Conference’s top spot. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)
For Celtics fans, this feels good.
It’s almost April, and their team own the top seed in the Eastern Conference, overtaking the Cavaliers thanks to Cleveland’s blowout loss to San Antonio Monday night. It’s only 1/2 game lead, but considering how long the Celts have been chasing LeBron James and Co., it seems like something.
And if it makes you feel any better, the Web site fivethiryeight.com suggests the Celtics have a 67 percent chance at earning the conference’s No. 1 seed, compared to Cleveland’s 31 percent. It also puts the Celtics at seven percent to win the NBA title, only behind Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.
But other than staking claim to the top of the standings for the time being, should we really care about the standings flip-flop?
The Cavaliers are banged up, with James serving as their latest casualty thanks to an elbow in the neck. Iman Shumpert didn’t play Monday, and Kyle Korver will miss two more games with a sore foot. With nine games to play, you might very well see Cavs coach Tyronn Lue scaling back minutes in his teams last nine games (one of which is against the Celtics, on April 5), prioritizing a semi-healthy playoff run.
After the Cavaliers’ loss, James was quoted as saying, “It matters more that we’re playing better basketball than where we’re at. If that results in us having the No. 1 seed, the No. 2 seed, 3 or whatever the hell it is, we need to play better basketball. That’s what it comes down to.”
And, as painful as it is to admit, he’s right.
The Celtics are the team playing well and feeling good about themselves. Not only have they taken the top seed, but Brad Stevens team has won four in a row and eight of its last 10. It’s been a month where the C’s only loss to an Eastern Conference team came in a slip-up against the lowly Sixers, with the other three defeats coming at the hands of Western Conference foes.
The next three games for the Celtics come against two teams with sub-.500 records (Orlando, New York), and one vs. a club (Milwaukee) just one game over .500. Those contests lead into the showdown with the Cavaliers at TD Garden.
After the Cleveland tilt, the Celtics play four more, traveling to Atlanta and Charlotte before closing out the regular season at home with games against Brooklyn and Milwaukee. (The Nets, by the way, are five games ahead in their race for worst record in the NBA, which is obviously good news for the owner of their first-round pick, the Celtics.)
Right now, if the Celtics were to claim the No. 1 seed their opponent would be Miami, who is just 1/2 game up on Chicago for the final playoff spot in the East. As for who the No. 2 seed might play, the group of Atlanta, Milwaukee and Indiana are all tied.
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