Morning Wrap: Looking at C's potential first-round foes
BOSTON -- Celtics fans are stoked about the team being tops in the Eastern Conference right now, even as players try to temper that enthusiasm with the ultimate buzz kill: Reality.
They know better than you and I that it’s way too soon to start thinking conference finals, especially considering this team hasn’t been out of the first round of the playoffs since 2012.
Complicating matters is the fact that despite there being just a couple weeks left in the regular season, they have no idea who they'll be playing in the first round. The list of potential opponents is all over the map.
So rather than scroll through box score after box score, here’s a compiled list of the possible first-round foes, sort of a morning wrap of what might be on the playoff menu for the Green Team.
ATLANTA (38-36), CURRENTLY FIFTH IN THE EAST
While they may seem to be an unlikely first-round foe based on where they currently stand in the East, only two games stand between them and the current eighth seed. Atlanta is coming off a hard-fought 95-91 win over Phoenix on Tuesday. Beating the lottery-bound Suns may not seem like that big a deal, but considering the Hawks came into the game having lost seven straight, Atlanta needed this one in the worst way. UP NEXT: Tonight at Philadelphia.
MILWAUKEE (38-36), CURRENTLY SIXTH IN THE EAST
The Bucks have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA for about a month now, winning 12 of their last 15 games (including a 118-108 win at Charlotte on Tuesday). And while some teams go on runs due to their success at one end of the floor, the Bucks rank among the top 10 in several categories, offensively and defensively, in that span. UP NEXT: Tonight at Boston.
INDIANA (37-37), CURRENTLY SEVENTH IN THE EAST
Paul George has certainly elevated his play of late, but the same can't be said for the rest of the Pacers, who continue to alternate wins with losses. But few defeats serve as a punch-in-the-gut more than Tuesday’s 115-114 loss to Minnesota. Up by two with just 3.4 seconds to play, Indiana fouled Ricky Rubio on a 3-point attempt. He made all three free throws for the Timberwolves victory. The way they’ve played, they’re likely to finish at .500, which should be good enough for them to land the seventh or eighth playoff spot. UP NEXT: Tonight at Memphis.
MIAMI (36-38), CURRENTLY EIGHTH IN THE EAST
The Heat pulled out an improbable 97-96 win at Detroit that ended with a Hassan Whiteside tip-in at the buzzer. It has been that kind of season for Miami, which continues to find ways to win despite being an underdog on paper seemingly every night. Erik Spoelstra is a top-three candidate for the league’s coach of the Year award. UP NEXT: Tonight at New York.
CHICAGO (35-39), CURRENTLY NINTH IN THE EAST
This is the team that all the top seeds in the East would love to see in the first round. Dwyane Wade (elbow) is out for the rest of the season and Jimmy Butler is forced to carry the load for a franchise that seemed to have taken a step back at the trade deadline via subtraction by addition. It’s hard to see them winning a game in the playoffs, let alone a series, if they somehow manage to make it to the postseason. UP NEXT: Thursday vs. Cleveland.
DETROIT (34-41), CURRENTLY 10TH IN THE EAST
Tuesday night’s buzzer-beating loss at home to Miami was a killer. A win would have brought the Pistons within one-half game of the Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot. In addition, it would have snapped their losing streak, which now stands at five in a row. UP NEXT: Thursday vs Brooklyn.
CHARLOTTE (33-41), CURRENTLY 11TH IN THE EAST
Their playoff hopes are steadily diminishing with each passing day. At three games out of the final playoff spot with eight to play, the Hornets have left themselves little to no room for error as they try to close out the season playing their best basketball and squeak into the playoffs. UP NEXT: Tonight at Toronto.