Celtics’ Schedule Presents Golden Opportunity for Top-Four Seed

Brad Stevens Celtics

Getty Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens looks on during a game against the Dallas Mavericks.

Just three weeks’ time can make a world of difference in NBA circles; just look at the Boston Celtics. Three weeks ago, the Celtics were seemingly a desperate bunch. Incredibly, a playoff berth was no longer a certainty and with the trade deadline looming, there was a real sense that Danny Ainge needed to upgrade the roster.

Fast-forward to now and the Celtics are suddenly surging. Jayson Tatum is dropping 53-point games, Robert Williams has finally been unleashed and their team has won six of its last seven games, with impressive victories over the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Celtics’ recent success begs the question — can they keep it up?

Sure, they’ve moved to the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff table for the time being, but do they have an opportunity to move into the top four?

Ahead of the trade deadline, it seemed an unlikely proposition at best. However, Boston’s current trajectory combined with a relatively soft closing schedule has yielded new possibilities for the team.

Schuhmann: Celtics Have ‘Easiest’ Remaining Schedule

On Thursday, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann broke down the remaining schedules of every team across the Association. With regard to the Celtics, he found that the team actually has the easiest remaining slate league-wide in terms of one very specific metric.

“The Celtics have the league’s easiest remaining schedule in regard to opposing offenses, with eight games against teams that rank in the bottom 10 on that end of the floor,” he wrote.

By comparison, Boston will play only three games against squads that currently rank in the top 10 offensively. Given some of the Celtics’ past struggles, the respite from squaring off against some of the NBA’s offensive powerhouses is certainly a welcome one.

Although the Cs have played much better defensively as of late, conceding just 106.7 points per 100 possessions during the recent upswing, they have struggled at times on that side of the court this season, particularly in the clutch.

For the year, Boston ranks just 17th league-wide in D-rating (111.6) during the last five minutes of games when the lead is five points or fewer.

Other Schedule Observations

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In terms of raw winning percentage, the Celtics still have one of the lighter schedules in the Eastern Conference. Their opponents’ combined winning percentage of 48.4 ranks as the sixth-lowest in the conference. They’ll also play more games with a rest advantage (three) than with a rest disadvantage (two).

As it stands, the Celtics trail the fourth-seeded Atlanta Hawks by just one game in the standings. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks and Miami Heat are both within a game or less of Boston at No. 5. The Celtics won’t play the Hawks again during the regular season, but they do have two games against the Heat and one against the Knicks.

Both Miami games will be played on the parquet floor at TD Garden, while the Cs will travel to Madison Square Garden for the Knicks game. All three contests fall on the last eight days of the season.

The Celtics must continue to show that they’re over their past struggles and the multiple brushes with COVID-19 they have experienced this season. If they can, they have a golden opportunity to obtain what had seemed unobtainable just three weeks ago — the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

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