BOSTON – With only one game left in the regular season, it’s hard for the Boston Celtics to not look ahead to the playoffs.
Focusing on the present which includes a regular season finale at home against Milwaukee tonight, while being acutely aware of the future which may include them being the top seed in the East, makes this game as much of a mental challenge as a physical one for Boston.
“It’s hard,” acknowledged Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “But you have to focus on what we can control.”
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And right now, the Celtics (52-29) control their own destiny when it comes to being the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
If they beat the Bucks tonight, they finish with the best record in the East and with it, they will have home court advantage for as long as they stay in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For Milwaukee (42-39) which has won two straight, they have incentive tonight to play well.
The Bucks are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, with no hope of moving up to the fifth spot after Atlanta’s win over Charlotte. And a loss could potentially drop them to the No. 7 spot where they start off on the road at either Cleveland or Boston.
And on Tuesday, Stevens reiterated that the team had no plans on resting any of his players after so many of them missed significant time during the season dealing with lots of injuries and illnesses.
“We feel like from the standpoint of rest and freshness, we’re in a pretty good shape,” Stevens said. “When you look at it from a total minutes and minutes per game standpoint, total number of games, we tried our best to manage those things appropriately all year. And we got the silver lining of injuries. We should be ready to go.”
Boston’s defense has picked up its play lately, and that has a lot to do with Avery Bradley’s return.
The 6-foot-3 guard is showing off the skills that have made him one of the best two-way talents in the NBA.
And while his offense has certainly been solid, Bradley’s true impact on the game will come with his defense.
“It’s been really good the last five quarters,” Stevens said of the team’s defense. “It seems Avery got his burst back. Obviously, the more that your guys can play together the better. The other good thing is we’ve gotten a lot of good contributions from a lot of people. Your opportunity will dictate some of the matchups. it may be someone that hasn’t played a whole lot this year who may need to be impactful for us.”