The Boston Celtics recently slipped down to the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race after losing five of their first six games following the NBA All-Star Game.
The C's appear to have gotten back on track, however, with three consecutive wins on their California road trip, most notably a 33-point rout of the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Boston's latest win was a 120-107 triumph over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, where Kyrie Irving scored a team-high 30 points for the C's in another excellent performance.
The victory moved the Celtics closer to a top-four seed in the East playoff race. The top four teams, of course, earn homecourt advantage in the first round, which is important for the Celtics to secure given their inconsistency (17-16 record) on the road.
Here's where Boston stands entering Sunday's slate of games.
1) Milwaukee Bucks: 50-16
2) Toronto Raptors: 47-19 (3 GB)
3) Indiana Pacers: 42-24 (8 GB)
4) Philadelphia 76ers: 41-25 (9 GB)
5) Boston Celtics: 41-26 (9.5 GB)
The 76ers and Pacers play Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, so the C's will inch closer to a top-four seed regardless of the outcome.
The most likely scenario for the Celtics is jumping the Pacers at some point. The Pacers are 5-5 in their last 10 games and have the sixth-toughest remaining schedule. Indiana, in addition to Sunday's showdown with Philly, still has to play the Warriors, the Denver Nuggets twice and the Celtics twice. Let's also not forget the Pacers' best player, Victor Oladipo, is out for the season with a leg injury.
The Celtics have ground to make up in the playoff race and almost certainly won't catch the Toronto Raptors for the division title, but securing home court in Round 1 is a very realistic and important target for the C's as the regular season winds down.
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