Celtics Lead

Why the 4th Seed Is Better for Boston

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The NBA Playoffs are just around the corner and the Boston Celtics are locked into the four seed. They’ve bested their soon-to-be fifth-seeded opponent Indiana Pacers twice in their last five games.

The Celtics won the season series 3-1, with the lone win for Indiana coming in their first game against each other back on Nov. 3. Victor Oladipo, now out for the season after suffering a ruptured quad tendon, led his team to a one-point victory.

Since that night, it’s been all Boston.

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris combined for 44 points in their second game of the season against the Pacers, cruising Boston to a 135-108 victory. They then continued on to win the last two games of the regular-season series, with one game needing a Kyrie Irving game-winner.

Teamwork

The fourth and final Celtics-Pacers matchup was another blowout, giving Boston a boost of confidence heading into the postseason. Kyrie ended the night with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, and had this to say on his team’s performance:

“We did what it took to get a convincing win like we did tonight by playing hard, doing the right things, staying aggressive on the defensive end, matching their physicality, and really setting the tone of the game,” Irving said. “When we do that, we’re pretty tough to beat, especially when guys are being aggressive going to the basket.”

At least some of that aggressiveness he’s referring to came from Gordon Hayward. Hayward had one of his best night’s of the entire season, going a perfect 9-of-9 from the field.

All that said, it’s still shocking that this is a team which was supposed to have an easy route at being a top two seed in the East. They will most likely wind up staying in the fourth seed for the playoffs, but at this point that may be a good thing.

Playoffs

If Boston had played well enough earlier in the season to gain control of third place, playing against Orlando or Brooklyn could be a tougher draw than the Oladipo-less Pacers. Despite having a team of true competitors, Indiana can’t seem to figure out Boston. They have undoubtedly surpassed expectations after losing Oladipo, but that won’t matter in a series against Boston’s litany of talent.

Orlando, meanwhile, has gone 2-0 in the regular season against Boston and seem to have hit their stride at the perfect time.

The Nets have stumbled to the finish line after being one of the many surprises across the NBA this season. Even still, All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell has absolutely lit up Boston’s defense in their three most recent games. Their chemistry is uncharted and their momentum is infectious, making that team dangerous come playoff time.

Given each head-to-head matchup, Indiana ends up being Boston’s most favorable first round matchup.

Second Round Outlook

Getting past the first round may be hard enough, but if Boston can do that the second round is where this team will truly be tested.

Milwaukee has been gifted with stellar play from MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo starting from opening night. But it’s the pieces around him that have rounded out the Bucks and given them a great shot at making the finals.

So why should Boston aim to face them in the Eastern Conference Semifinals?

Reasons like their health, past success, and team depth all go in favor of the C’s. Boston has had some minor injury struggles to close out the season, but should have everyone at full strength in time for the postseason. They also found a way to gameplan against and ultimately take down Giannis’ Bucks in seven games last year. Both teams have had some changes to say the least, but even this season Boston has struggled more with Kawhi Leonard and the depth of Toronto.

It’s a small sample size, but in the two games Boston lost to Toronto this season, it was by an average of 17.5 points. They played Milwaukee three times and also lost twice, but by an average of only seven points. The last game the two played, the Celtics shot an uncharacteristically low 38.2 percent from the field. Even still, they managed to keep it close and lost 98-97.

Unless Milwaukee plans on Kyrie and Al Horford combining to shoot 17-for-48 like they did in that game, Boston could find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals for a second-straight year.

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