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Celtics face tough first-round matchup

4/15/2015

After clinching a playoff spot on Monday, the Boston Celtics locked up the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over the Toronto Raptors and will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

This marks sixth postseason meeting between the teams, with the Celtics winning three of the previous five series. They last met in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, with the Celtics beating the LeBron James-led Cavaliers in six games.

The Celtics are into the playoffs with a losing record for the fourth time in team history. They lost in the opening series each of the previous three times and have a 2-9 record in those games, getting swept by the Indiana Pacers in 2004.

Regardless of which teams clinch the final two playoff spots in the East and West on Wednesday, the Celtics will be one of the greenest teams in the second season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Boston's roster has a combined 139 games worth of playoff experience. Only the Milwaukee Bucks have less experience.

On the flip side, the Cavaliers' roster has a combined 784 games worth of playoff experience, second only to the San Antonio Spurs.

The Celtics could be looking at a quick playoff exit.

According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, the Cavaliers have an 89 percent chance of winning the series and a 55 percent chance of winning in five or fewer games.

With James back on the team, the Cavaliers can practically look ahead to the semifinals. He is a perfect 9-0 all-time in the first round of the playoffs, and only two of those series went six games. His most recent six-game series in the first round was in 2008 against the Washington Wizards. Since then, James has lost a total of three games and his team has swept each of the past two first-round series.

Don't expect to see the Celtics deliver a Game 1 upset in Cleveland. James has won each of his first nine playoff openers, which, according to Elias research, is tied for the fourth-longest streak to start a career in NBA history, trailing only Larry Bird (12), Scottie Pippen (11) and Bill Sharman (10).