Morning wrap: So long, Pistons; Hawks rematch looming?
Morning wrap: So long, Pistons; Hawks rematch looming for C’s?
ATLANTA – The NBA playoff race is a little clearer this morning with the Detroit Pistons now officially eliminated from the playoffs.
They would have needed a near perfect storm of events to get in, but wins by Indiana and Chicago on Thursday delivered the knockout punch to the Pistons, who have now failed to make the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons.
For the Celtics, the focus now shifts towards trying to get right before the playoffs which will begin for them at the TD Garden for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.
And while Boston’s position as a playoff team has been cemented for some time now, there’s still a lot of uncertainty on the back-nine of the playoff picture.
Here’s another morning wrap of the teams that the Celtics are most likely to see in the playoffs:
ATLANTA (40-38) FIFTH IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
The Hawks were among the teams the Celtics would be better off not seeing in the first round. Paul Millsap is getting healthier, Tim Hardaway Jr. looks good with the starting unit and Kent Bazemore is a high-energy guy who is coming off the bench now in a role that really suits him and the team. Atlanta will make whoever they face in the first round work a lot harder than they would want to, in order to put them away. UP NEXT: Tonight at Cleveland.
MILWAUKEE (40-39) SIXTH
While it seems highly unlikely that Milwaukee’s recent struggles will result in them not making the playoffs at all, dropping three in a row is making an all-green first-round tilt looking more and more like a possibility. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bucks look to rest players after they clinch a playoff berth, or will they play the season out with the goal being to get the highest seeding possible. UP NEXT: Saturday at Philadelphia.
CHICAGO (39-40) SEVENTH
The Bulls would be the Celtics’ first-round foe if the postseason started today, but look for Chicago to go up one spot before all is said and done. They’ve won five of their past six and close out the season with games against Brooklyn (twice) and Orlando. The Bulls really have no excuses for not getting into the playoffs this year. UP NEXT: Saturday at Brooklyn.
INDIANA (39-40) EIGHTH
One of the harder teams to understand this season, the Pacers played with the sense of urgency needed in knocking off the Bucks at home on Thursday. Say what you want about Lance Stephenson, but there is no getting around how much his return has helped the Pacers in terms of balance at both ends of the floor, as well as – dare we say it – leadership! UP NEXT: Saturday at Orlando.
MIAMI (38-40) NINTH
It’s hard to get a read on what the Heat are walking into at the end of this season. They have a slew of really tough opponents left to play, but some (maybe all) of those teams might be resting players in preparation for the playoffs which would certainly give Miami a better chance at winning and in doing so, grab hold of one of the last couple of playoff spots. Even though they were swept by the Celtics in the regular season, the Heat play so hard all the time that this is one of the few teams Boston would rather avoid in the first round. Boston would win the series, but the Heat would put up a much tougher fight than a lot of the teams they’re bunched together with. UP NEXT: Tonight at Toronto.
CHARLOTTE (36-43) TENTH
The Hornets need a near perfect storm of a finish to the season in order to sneak into the playoffs, but that just doesn’t seem likely. They close out against teams that are just as hungry for a win as they are, and two of those games are on the road. And of the teams still eligible for the playoffs, only Indiana (11-28) has a worse road record than Charlotte (14-25). Their season should be over sometime this weekend. UP NEXT: Saturday vs Boston.