Jockeying for position (3 games to go)
With Friday's loss to the Wizards, coupled with Atlanta's win over Toronto, the Celtics slipped a game behind the Hawks in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston does boast the head-to-head tie-breaker and therefore needs to only make up a game before season's end to have a chance at the higher positioning (which would help the team avoid top-seeded Cleveland in the second round if higher seeds took care of business in the first round).
With Milwaukee's triumph over Philadelphia, coupled with Miami's loss to Detroit, the Bucks currently boast a one-game lead in the race for the No. 5 seed. What's more, Milwaukee boasts the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Heat, meaning Miami must make up two games over three games in order to vault out of the No. 6 spot. Fortunately for the Heat, they boast the easiest slate the rest of the way.
Charlotte's loss Friday night almost ensures they won't climb higher than No. 7, though it remains a possibility for now. So here's where it gets interesting: With Boston in Milwaukee tonight for the first of two meetings over the final three games, the Celtics have a chance to directly impact which opponent they see in the opening round. But the two teams might not be able to stay out of each other's way.
If Boston wins both matchups, it stands a solid chance of vaulting to No. 3 and Milwaukee would likely fall to No. 6. If Milwaukee wins both matchups, it all but assures Boston slips to No. 4 and the Bucks vault to No. 5.
Of course, there's too many moving parts to know exactly how this will all play out. We'll take a look each morning at how things are playing out. For now, here's the remaining schedule for all the parties involved:
Boston Celtics (49-30)
Saturday - at Milwaukee (45-34)
Tuesday - at Chicago (38-41)
Wednesday - vs. Milwaukee (45-34)
Atlanta Hawks (50-29)
Saturday - at Washington (25-54)
Monday - at Milwaukee (45-34)
Wednesday - vs. Cleveland (61-19)
Milwaukee Bucks (45-34)
Saturday - vs. Boston (49-30)
Monday - vs. Atlanta (50-29)
Wednesday - at Boston (49-30)
Miami Heat (44-35)
Sunday - at New York (28-51)
Monday - at Philadelphia (26-53)
Wednesday - vs. New Jersey (12-67)
For more, check out our Playoff Matchups page. And be sure to vote in our playoff poll below.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter weighs in on the Panthers' WR situation, Julian Edelman's future with the Patriots, Vince Wilfork's decision to ask for his release and more.
Play Podcast "Spanning the Globe" features ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss, Yahoo! Sports' Eric Edholm and ESPN LA 710's Mark Willard.
Play Podcast Red Sox manager John Farrell talks about whether he expected his team to make such a turnaround in one season, his relationship with his players, fans' expectations for the squad and more.