If you'll forgive the pun: The "March" to the NBA playoffs is officially on.
The Boston Celtics (41-18) exit February half a game behind the Toronto Raptors (42-18) for the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed with 23 regular-season games remaining.
Securing the No. 2 seed, as NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg has discussed, would allow the Celtics to avoid a tough first-round matchup with the No. 6 seed Indiana Pacers and give them home-court advantage in a potential second-round playoff clash with Toronto.
So, who is better positioned to win what's essentially a dead heat between Boston and Toronto for the No. 2 seed? (Neither team is catching the Milwaukee Bucks, who are 10 games clear of the Raptors at 52-8, while the Miami Heat are 3.5 games back of the Celtics at 38-22.)
Glad you asked.
First, here is each team's strength of schedule, defined as the combined win percentage of their remaining opponents:
Celtics: .497 (17th-hardest)
Raptors: .500 (15th-hardest)
Overall, the Raptors' remaining schedule is slightly more challenging than the Celtics'. Toronto also plays just nine of its remaining 23 games at home, while Boston plays 12 of its last 22 at TD Garden.
Next, here are each teams' remaining games against teams with winning records:
Celtics (9): vs. Utah, vs. OKC, at Indiana, at Milwaukee, at Toronto, vs. Miami, vs. Milwaukee, vs. Indiana, at Miami
Raptors (9): at Utah, at Philadelphia, vs. Boston, vs. Denver, vs. L.A. Lakers, at Milwaukee, vs. Milwaukee, at Houston, at Miami
Sensing a trend here? Boston and Toronto have very similar remaining schedules, which means this race could come down to the wire.
Armed with that data, here's our highly scientific projection for how each team will finish down the stretch:
Celtics: 16-6; 57-25 final record
Raptors: 15-8; 56-26 final record
What's the razor-thin difference here? Toronto may lose both of its matchups with the scorching-hot Bucks and also fall on the road to the 76ers, who are a ridiculous 28-2 at home.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have been excellent at home and may push ahead of the Raptors if they can pick up key wins over the Heat and Pacers at TD Garden.
Of course, this also places a huge emphasis on Boston's March 20 visit to Toronto. If the Celtics can steal a victory on the road, they'll win the season series 3-1 and own the tiebreaker over the Raptors should they finish with identical records.
If Toronto wins that game and the season series is tied, the next tiebreaker is record against division opponents, and the Raptors (8-4) currently edge the C's (7-5) in that department.
Long story short: Boston fans should be following Toronto box scores very closely as March progresses.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Nets-Celtics, which begins Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.