Boston Celtics: 2013Jockeying

The Boston Celtics can lock up the seventh seed on Saturday night and move one step closer to a first-round matchup with the New York Knicks.

Boston is three games up on Milwaukee with three games to play in the regular season, but the Bucks own the head-to-head tiebreaker after winning three of the four head-to-head matchups this season, which leaves the Celtics' magic number at 1. Any Boston win or Milwaukee loss would lock Boston into the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics visit Orlando on Saturday night, while the Bucks travel to Charlotte.

It was a long shot in recent weeks, especially given their struggles, but now the Celtics can no longer move up in the seedings. The currently sixth-seeded Bulls own a three-game edge with three games to play for each team and also carry the head-to-head tiebreaker (conference record).

Once the seventh seed is locked in, the only thing Boston will be waiting for is confirmation it will open the playoffs in New York next weekend. The Knicks are three games up on Indiana and, barring the unforeseen, should lock up the second seed as early as Sunday when the two teams meet in New York.

Jockeying for position: Sealing seventh

April, 12, 2013
The Boston Celtics can assure themselves of no worse than the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with a win Friday night in Miami coupled with a Milwaukee Bucks loss in Atlanta. Boston holds a three-game edge on Milwaukee with four games to play in the regular season and its magic number is two given that the Bucks own the head-to-head tie-breaker after winning the season series.

Looking in the opposite direction, the Celtics are 2.5 games back of sixth-seeded Atlanta and still have the potential to climb, but with Boston ready to rest veteran bodies over the final games of the season, it's unlikely the team will shuffle up.

The New YorK Knicks saw their 13-game winning streak snapped Thursday night in Chicago, but a Boston-New York matchup remains the most likely scenario for the 2-7 matchup in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks hold a two-game edge over the Pacers. Boston might be able to help determine its own first-round opponent when Indiana visits TD Garden on Tuesday.

A look at John Hollinger's projected playoff odds, which predict the East will maintain order:

Jockeying for position: 3 up, 5 to go

April, 10, 2013
After the Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics own a three-game cushion on the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with five games to go.

Milwaukee owns the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Celtics, but Boston's magic numbers -- by our rough calculations -- is three (any combination Boston wins or Milwaukee losses) to ensure Boston won't slip past the seventh spot. A glance at each team's remaining schedule:
Boston's remaining schedule: vs. Brooklyn (Wednesday), at Miami (Friday), at Orlando (Saturday), vs. Indiana (Tuesday), at Toronto (4/17).

Milwaukee's remaining schedule: at Orlando (Wednesday), at Atlanta (Friday), at Charlotte (Saturday), vs. Denver (Monday), at Oklahoma City (4/17).

If Boston stands firm at the seventh seed, it would put the Celtics on pace to play the New York Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs. The Knicks, winners of 13 straight, have a 2.5-game edge over Indiana (it'd be more but the Pacers rallied from a ridiculous deficit to top Cleveland on Tuesday).

The question is whether Boston can (or desires to) shuffle up. The Celtics are 1.5 games back of the Atlanta Hawks (and 2 games behind the Bulls). It's unlikely Boston can leapfrog both teams in such a short span, but if they went full throttle to the finish line, it could potentially catch one. The gain is marginal at best in moving up one spot and the guess here is that Boston will continue to err on the side of rest and health, and be content to simply remain in front of Milwaukee.

A glance at Atlanta's remaining schedule: at Philadelphia (Wednesday), vs. Milwaukee (Friday), vs. Toronto (Tuesday), at New York (4/17).

Hollinger's Playoff Odds predict the East will maintain order:

CelticsHub: Seventh heaven for C's?

April, 3, 2013

The Boston Celtics own a 1-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks with two weeks to go in the regular season. Can Boston hold Milwaukee off? Our friends at CelticsHub break it down while taking a look at each team's schedule:
The most challenging sections of the Celtics schedule are over. Boston is back in town for a four-game homestand starting Wednesday, and the TD Garden has been friendly to the C’s in the post-Rondo era this year as the team has gone 12-2 at home since Jan. 27. The biggest caveat we have there is the fact that those two losses came without Kevin Garnett in the lineup.

We don’t know yet when Garnett will return, but given the fact that he’s traveled with the team over the weekend and coach Doc Rivers talked optimistically about his status on Sunday, I think it’s safe to say he should return to the lineup [soon]... While it may be tempting to rest him the rest of the way, I think if Garnett is close to 100 percent, the C’s would prefer to avoid the Heat for a couple rounds and earn that seventh seed. In order for Boston to do that, they’ll need Garnett, even against inferior opponents.

In today's Celtics Mailbag (it'll be posted later), we tackled a question on whether the Bucks could catch Boston:
A 1-game edge does little to inspire confidence, particularly given the way that Boston has played lately. That said, I think the Celtics realized a couple weeks back that, by even doing just the bare minimum, they were probably going to back into the seventh seed. Of the Bucks’ nine remaining games, five are against winning teams and four of those are on the road. The Celtics, on the other hand, play five of their final eight against teams under .500 and three of those are at home (Boston’s next three games are visits from Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington). Unless the Bucks get hot and the Celtics simply can’t tread water, I see Boston keeping Milwaukee at arm’s length. A couple wins during this homestand might be enough to salt away the seventh spot.

Sound off with your thoughts in the comments.
The Boston Celtics still have 16 games to play and it's probably too early to start sweating potential tie-breakers, particularly with seeds 3-7 currently separated by a mere 3 games. But a few notes as teams gear up for the sprint to the finish line over the final month of the season:

* The Celtics and Bulls currently own matching records at 36-30. The two teams split the season series (Boston is probably kicking itself about an overtime game it kicked away in January) and therefore the tie-breaker shifts to conference record where the Bulls (26-13) have a sizable lead over the Celtics (22-18).

* The Celtics are 2-1 against the Hawks (an overtime loss on Jan. 25 looms large yet again) and can win the season series with a victory in Boston on March 29. The Hawks are 22-17 in the conference. The Celtics are a half game behind the Hawks at the moment.

* Boston has a two-game lead over Milwaukee while trying to avoid the eighth seed (and a first-round matchup with the Heat). The schedule appears to be working in their favor. Milwaukee has 10 games remaining against teams currently over .500 (six of which are on the road). By comparison, Boston has seven such games (three on the road). Keep in mind that the Bucks have the head-to-head tie-breaker after winning three of four this season.

* Chicago actually appears to have the easiest remaining schedule in the East, playing only five teams above. 500 (two on the road). Things are a bit more daunting for Brooklyn (six games against winning teams; five on the road) and Atlanta (eight games against winning teams; five on the road), which might aid Boston in any quest to climb.



Isaiah Thomas
19.7 5.0 0.6 26.7
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsE. Turner 5.1
StealsM. Smart 1.4
BlocksT. Zeller 0.7