The Boston Celtics' playoff push officially returns Friday. But what exactly are they pushing for?
The Celtics are the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed entering their first "seeding round" game against the Milwaukee Bucks at 6:30 p.m. ET. They're three games behind the No. 2 seed Toronto Raptors and 2.5 games up on the No. 4 seed Miami Heat, so a lot could change over eight games.
Of course, the C's are playing in a bubble with no fans at any of the games in Orlando. So, how important is it really for the Celtics to secure the East's No. 2 seed? Sure, they'd gain "home court" in a potential second-round matchup with the Raptors, but is that really an advantage at a neutral site?
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That was the question NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal posed Celtics star Jayson Tatum Thursday night on "NBA on TNT:" Does it really matter what seed you are?
"From a home-court advantage (perspective), obviously not," Tatum replied. "But for us, we want to take it one game at a time. We want to win every game that we play.
"It's not about, 'If we lose, it's cool because home court advantage doesn't really matter.' We're trying to get better ourselves as individuals and as a team. So, we're just trying to get better every game. ... Then, once the playoffs come, we'll play who we play."
That seems like a healthy mindset for the Celtics, who will have All-Star point guard Kemba Walker on a minutes restriction as he works back from an injured knee. These eight games aren't "do or die" for Boston, but the C's still want to make sure they're playing their best basketball by the postseason.
As for which teams are best-positioned for success in the NBA bubble?
"This is a unique circumstance where there's no fans, there's no home-court advantage," Tatum said. " ... I think it's about who makes this the most normal, who adjusts the fastest -- as well as talent and playing hard -- but who can adjust the quickest to forget all the distractions of the bubble and just go out there and play basketball."
The Celtics enter Friday's opener as a dark horse NBA title contender and could make a deep playoff run, especially if Tatum continues to play like a top-10 NBA star.
Tatum appears focused on the task at hand, all while continuing to advocate for social and racial justice. The 22-year-old also explained his involvement in the #MyStartingFive initiative to push for increased participation in the upcoming Presidential Election, which you can check out below.