Morning Wrap: Celtics clinch no worse than No. 3 seed
BOSTON -- It wasn’t the smoothest path to success for the Boston Celtics, but they did what they had to do in a 121-114 win at Charlotte Saturday night that eliminated the Hornets from the playoffs.
For the Celtics, the victory -- coupled with Washington’s loss to the Miami Heat -- assured Boston (51-29) of finishing no worse than No. 3 in the East.
With two games to play, all the Celtics need is one more win or a Toronto loss and they will go into the playoffs as no worse than the No. 2 seed.
And Cleveland’s stunning loss to the Atlanta Hawks’ JV team earlier this week chas the Celtics once again eyeballing a shot at finishing with the best record in the East.
Boston (51-29) trails Cleveland (51-28) by one-half game. But the Cavs own the tie-breaker over the C's, so the magic number for Cleveland to clinch the top seed is 2.
While the Celtics eliminating Charlotte brought about some clarity to the playoff picture, there’s still a lot left to be decided in the coming days.
Here’s a morning wrap of where the Celtics’ potential first-round foes stand right now.
ATLANTA (41-38) FIFTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
If Atlanta and Boston were to meet in the first round, it would most likely because the Celtics had fallen to the No. 3 spot and the Hawks had slipped to No. 6. It's unlikely both those things will happen. Winners in four of their last six games, the Hawks are getting their act together at the right time. UP NEXT: Today vs Cleveland.
MILWAUKEE (41-39) SIXTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
They've hit a bit of a hiccup, losing three of their last four games, but the Bucks are going to the playoffs with the potential to move up one spot. And with two games remaining, they may benefit from games against teams that may not have a lot to play for. The Hornets are out of the playoffs and the season finale at Boston might be a game in which the Celtics rest key players if they've already locked up a No. 1 or 2 seed. UP NEXT: Monday vs Charlotte.
INDIANA (40-40) SEVENTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Who’s the real MVP of this team, Paul George or Lance Stephenson? Because ever since they signed Stephenson, all the Pacers have done is win, win, win. A three-game streak does not make one a title contender, but for a Pacers team that has been up and down all season, it’s the kind of consistency they desperately need to close out the season and secure a playoff berth. UP NEXT: Monday at Philadelphia.
CHICAGO (39-41) EIGHTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Dwyane Wade’s return on Saturday didn’t go quite as planned for the red-hot Bulls, who find themselves in what will be a photo finish to the season. It’s a three-team race for two playoff spots, and they easily have the smoothest path. However, while their last two opponents (Orlando and Brooklyn) haven’t been very good all season, they both play hard, which will make the Bulls’ quest to get into the postseason anything but a cake walk. UP NEXT: Monday vs Orlando.
MIAMI (39-41) NINTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
The Heat kept their playoff dreams alive with a gutsy 106-103 win at Washington on Saturday, and will close out the regular season with a pair of games at home. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Of the nine teams in the East still in the playoff picture, Miami is tied with Atlanta for the fewest home wins (21). And remember, earlier this month the Heat suffered back-to-back home losses to New York and Denver. They seemed to be huge losses at the time and now in retrospect, we know they were indeed just that. If they get into the playoffs, they will have earned it. Big time! UP NEXT: Monday vs Cleveland.