Image C/O: Masslive.com
As the NBA season is starting to wrap up, the Celtics continue to struggle as they are plagued with injuries through the end of their season. Of course, PG Kemba Walker sits back to back games, but All Star SG Jaylen Brown has been officially downgraded to OUT for the season, and starting C Robert Williams III has been battling injuries throughout the last few weeks creating further inconsistent lineups as players such as Semi Ojeleye and Payton Pritchard are left to start. In the team’s last ten games, the C’s have only taken four wins, and down the road they could end up in the Play-In Tournament.
For those who don’t know, as of last year, in the COVID era of the NBA, the league agreed on a play-in tournament which includes the 7-10 seeds in each conference. In each conference, the 7-10 seeds will face each other in a small bracket as seen in the image where the winners will be slotted in as the true 7th and 8th seeds for the NBA Playoffs.
In an embarrassing performance on Mother’s Day, the Celtics came out flat with Jaylen Brown still out from injury. Going into the half, the Celtics were down a whopping 53-79, and once again they battled back in the second half but fell short again. Newly acquired Evan Fournier shot lights out dropping 30 points on Miami which wasn’t enough to overcome the Heat as the C’s fell 130-124. Postgame, Head Coach Brad Stevens said “We have to do a better job, we have not been good on several occasions this year starting games… this game forced us to try some things we haven’t done as much… we’re small and so we have to fight.”
This Miami series to close out the year is arguably the most important games of the season for the Celtics and keeping them out of the Play-In Tournament. As of now the Heat are the 6th seed in the conference and the Celtics are the 7th seed. At this point, the Celtics essentially have to win out their last four games, and everything has to go right around the league for them to escape the tournament.
Looking into the possibility of the Play-In Tournament, the Celtics would have to face the Hornets in the first round unless the Wizards leap them in the standings. The Wizards are currently hot as PG Russell Westbrook has recently found his stride and is putting up serious numbers for the team. Washington has only fallen three times in their last sixteen games and they seem to have a manageable schedule to finish out the season including a game against Charlotte. This makes Washington the scariest team entering the tournament in the East for the Celtics as they try to evade the tournament.
In the West, the Lakers look to be teetering in the Play-In Tournament while the Trail Blazers and the Pelicans are currently trying to sneak in to the tenth seed over San Antonio. After the devastating loss to the Miami Heat, the C’s have to battle back and hope for the best in order to find themselves in the sixth seed, but for now they have their eyes set on Miami for another duel at the Garden tomorrow night. The road ahead looks tough without Jaylen Brown, can the Celtics find a groove without him in the playoffs?