CSN Stats: Seed of doubt

CSN Stats: Seed of doubt

Six days ago, LeBron James and the Cavs visited TD Garden for a first-place showdown with the Celtics. The stakes seemed high: The winner would have the inside track for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with the loser likely settling for second.


But a funny thing happened after the 114-91 shellacking that the Cavs handed the C's on. The Cavaliers lost to the Hawks 'B' team at the Q, then blew a 26-point fourth quarter lead to lose another game in Atlanta, then lost a second straight overtime game to the Heat. That put the C's back in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed heading into the final game of the regular season.

Would that top seed guarantee anything beyond a first-round matchup with the No. 8 seed? Of course not. But anything is possible -- just ask Kevin Garnett.

Since the playoffs were expanded to 16 teams in 1984, the Celtics have earned the No. 1 seed six times, and they've reached the Finals in five of those instances, winning titles in 1984, 1986 and 2008:

Earning that top seed hasn't meant very much recently, thanks in part to the man who has repeatedly said seeding doesn't mean squat. LeBron James has made six straight trips to the Finals, and his team has been the top seed in just two of those seasons. Overall in the Eastern Conference, only 3 of the last 14 top seeds have reached the Finals -- the 2008 Celtics, the 2013 Heat and the 2016 Cavs:

Need more proof that seeding doesn't mean a whole lot once the playoffs start? You've come to the right place. The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference will finish this season with either 52 or 53 wins. You have to go all the way back to the 2007 Pistons to find a top seed with a win total that low (in a non-lockout season).

So with no dominant team in the East, maybe the most dominant player in the conference will book a ticket for the Finals for a seventh straight season. Or maybe the luck of the Irish will be with the Celtics. After all, it's all about the team that ends the postseason as No. 1, not the team that starts that way.

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pelicans in New Orleans. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 5:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Celtics Nation was hoping tonight’s matchup between Boston and New Orleans would be Anthony Davis returning to where his pro career began.

He’s still with the Pelicans, doing what Davis has done for most of his career – dominate play.

But there’s a new twist now … he’s also winning. 

That’s why the 6-foot-10 Davis is no longer seen as a player that might be on the move anytime soon. 

He’s not just one of the league’s best players, but a bonafide MVP candidate whose stock as an elite player is even greater since New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the season on Jan. 26. 

Since Cousins’ season-ending injury, New Orleans (39-30) has a 12-9 record with Davis averaging 31.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in that span. 

Davis is also averaging 7.8 free throws per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, although you wouldn’t know he was among the league leaders in that category based on the postgame rant by his coach Alvin Gentry following New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday night. 

“A.D. (Anthony Davis) never gets a call,” a visibly angry Gentry told reporters following the loss. “He never gets a call. We talk about them holding him. We talk about them grabbing him on rolls. We talk about them coming under him on post-ups. He never gets a call; not one. And you know why? Because he doesn’t (bleep) complain about it. He just keeps playing the game.”

Regardless of how often he gets to the line, Davis is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season in Cousins’ absence. 

But it’s not like Davis’ stat line this season overall – 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals – didn’t stand out for all the right reasons, either.

However, Davis’ shine isn’t quite as bright now with the Pelicans losing four of their last five games which has dropped New Orleans (39-30) down to the eighth and final playoff spot and just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-31).

So, the Celtics come into town facing not only one of the better teams in the West, but a club that is absolutely starving for a win.

While Boston (47-22) certainly wants to come into the Big Easy and get a victory, its impact on the Celtics’ playoff hopes is non-existent. 

Boston has the second-best record in the East and trail Toronto (52-17) by five games with 13 remaining. They face the Raptors two more times this season, but even if they win both of those games and thus the head-to-head series, it likely won’t come into play because of Toronto likely finishing with the best record in the East. 

And behind Boston in the standings is Cleveland (40-29), another injury-riddled team that’s seven games behind the Celtics in the standing and has shown no signs of threatening to gain ground on Boston. 

So regardless of how the Celtics fare, it’s likely they will remain sandwiched between Toronto and Cleveland in terms of playoff seedings are concerned. 

And that might factor into who plays – and who doesn’t – for Boston in these final few games of the regular season. 

Boston’s Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, and Marcus Smart’s right thumb injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season with the earliest he might be back being the latter stages of the first round of the playoffs, or sometime during the second round if the Celtics advance that far. 

Boston must also make sure Kyrie Irving and his sore left knee, are good to go for the playoffs. In addition, the Celtics must work Jaylen Brown back into the fold after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of Boston’s last three games. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has made a point of not allowing himself or his players to use their injury situation as an excuse for not playing good basketball. 

But he knows good basketball for his injury-riddled roster, involves players elevating their play.

“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistributing responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said, adding, “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best basketball.”