WALTHAM, Mass. – If you listen to the Celtics players, getting the No. 1 overall seed in the East was among the mile-makers Boston laid out in its journey towards the postseason.
As the top overall seed, they will have home-court advantage in every playoff series they’re involved with in the East.
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But is the No. 1 seed all that important?
Could they have been just as satisfied with being the second-best team in the East, record-wise?
Of course, they would have been pleased with the No. 2 spot, which in itself would have been an improvement over last season when they finished in a four-way tie for the third-best record in the East only to slip all the way down to a No. 5 seed in the playoffs once the tiebreakers had been performed.
But being the top seed, whether the Celtics want to admit it or not, brings about an entirely different – and heightened – level of expectations.
While most agree that Cleveland is still the team to beat, that doesn’t mean the Celtics aren’t capable of having a successful postseason.
And being the top seed overall in the East only helps.
Looking back on the past decade, the top overall seed has made the most of their lofty position in terms of navigating through the playoffs.
Of the previous 10 teams with the top overall record in the East, half were able advance as far as the Conference finals. And on three different occasions, which does not include those five aforementioned trips to the conference finals, the top overall seed was able to advance to the NBA Finals (Cleveland last year; Miami in 2013 and Boston in 2008).
But there have been a couple top seeds that totally flamed out quickly in the playoffs in the past decade.
One of the more memorable instances at least around here was the 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland won the East at 61-21, the fewest wins at that time by a conference champion since Indiana won 61 in 2004.
Boston's 53-29 record ranks among the fewest wins by a conference champion, which is among the many reasons that many anticipate they too will have an early exit akin to the Cavaliers in 2010 or Chicago Bulls in 2012.
In 2010, Cleveland had no problem getting past eighth-seed Chicago in five games that year.
But in the second round, they faced a Celtics team that most believed was better than their playoff seeding at that time.
Boston, seeded fourth that year, was just two years removed from having won an NBA title, and still had a lot of their core pieces such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and point guard Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics returned to the TD Garden for Games 3 and 4 having snatched home-court advantage away from Cleveland by splitting the first two games at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland returned the favor by splitting Games 3 and 4 and with it, regained home-court advantage as the series shifted back to Cleveland.
Those good vibes didn’t last long with the Celtics taking Game 5 in Cleveland, and closing out the upset with a series-ending Game 6 win at the TD Garden.
But as the Celtics embark upon this postseason, what happened to the Cavs in 2010 or the Bulls in the first round in 2012 (Derrick Rose’s knee injury in Game 1 torpedoed their playoff run, without question) are lessons to be learned.
Being No. 1 is a good thing and something to be proud of.
But once the playoffs get here, it guarantees nothing other than you will be the team everyone is targeting, which is something the Celtics are going to learn about first-hand beginning with Game 1 against the Bulls on Sunday.
Here's a look at recent No. 1 seeds in the East and if they reached the NBA Finals: