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How a 1-16 Seeded Playoff Would Affect the Celtics

If the NBA were to jump right into the playoffs when resuming the season, the No. 3 seed Celtics (43-21) would go up against the No. 6 seed 76ers (39-26). The Sixers have already clinched the season series against Boston after winning 3 of their 4 matchups. However, due to this dreadful pandemic, the playoffs this year could possibly be done in a different way.  

The NBA season has now been on hold for nearly three months due to the outbreak of COVID-19. However, the basketball committee is starting to make strides towards resuming the season. As of now, it appears the NBA season will resume at a mutual spot to ensure everyone’s safety. It’s starting to take shape that Orlando is the front-runner and plans to host without fans in attendance. One major aspect of the playoffs, home-court advantage, will be taken away for the higher-seeded teams. 

Although unlikely according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, there is a possibility of the NBA reseeding teams 1-16 rather than 1-8 by conference. There would still be 8 teams per conference, just reseeded based on their record. If this were to happen, the Celtics would happen to be the No. 5 seed and would still face the No. 12 seed 76ers. Although the Celtics would still play Philadelphia in the first round, here are some results of what would happen to Boston if the playoffs were seeded 1-16. 

Round One: Celtics vs. Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris (12) fouls Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

One of the NBA’s most heated rivalries in the past years, the Celtics and Sixers would match up with each other again in the first round. Despite Philadelphia’s struggles throughout the year, they have matched up particularly well with Boston. They clinched the season series all the way back in January after winning their third straight matchup of the season. However, Boston has played two great games against the Sixers this year. One of those games came with the absence of Kemba Walker. One big downfall to the Celtics is they wouldn’t get a home court advantage in the series. The 76ers have played horrible on the road this year (10-24). On the other hand, Boston has dominated at home (23-9). If the Celtics want to compete in this series, they would need to maintain the Sixers dominant inside game. Controlling the inside game would force Philadelphia to take more three-point shots which they have not done well all year. Although the 76ers are a much lower seed than the Celtics, they have a size advantage and definitely have enough skill to upset Boston in the first round. The best case scenario for the Celtics would be for the NBA to not jump right into the playoffs in hope to avoid Philadelphia in the first round. 

Round Two: Boston vs. Los Angeles (Clippers)

BOSTON, MA –  FEBRUARY 13: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket during a game against the LA Clippers on February 13, 2020 at TD Garden in Boston, MA.

Assuming the Celtics beat the 76ers in the first round, and the No. 4 seed Clippers take down the No. 13 seed Mavericks, Boston would take on the Clippers in the next round. This would be another challenging matchup for Boston. On the bright side, the Celtics have matched up well with the Clippers resulting in a 1-1 season series. The first game needed an overtime to decide the winner, and the second game needed two overtimes to decide. The Clippers came out victorious in game one winning 107-104. Despite the Celtics missing Gordon Hayward, they still played a very good game. In the second meeting between the two, Boston turned things around and won in two overtimes led by Jayson Tatum who scored 39 points while shooting 14 of 23 from the field. Although Boston has played well against the Clippers this year, it doesn’t help that they would have to go up against reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The key for the Celtics in this series would be generating offense against a tough Clippers defense. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverly have combined for 11 all-defensive team awards. Not to mention, the Clippers are also one of the strongest offensive teams in the league. Though Los Angeles poses a threat to the Celtics in their playoff run, they are definitely a beatable team. 

Round Three: Celtics vs. Bucks

BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 30: Kemba Walker #8 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 30, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

However, the road does not get any easier for the Celtics after Philadelphia and the Clippers. Presumably, the Celtics will have to beat the Bucks and Lakers in order to win the finals. Both of those teams have proved to be the two best in the league. Boston has won one game and lost a game against both Milwaukee and Los Angeles. Against both teams this year, the Celtics have dealt with key injuries. 

In Boston’s first meeting against Milwaukee they won despite being without Jaylen Brown due to injury. In the next matchup, the Bucks came out on top despite Boston being without Brown again. The Celtics have matched up well with the Bucks this year. However, there is no doubt that two games is a small sample size. Winning 4 of 7 games against reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is no easy task. In order for the Celtics to have any chance against Milwaukee, they would have to dominate offensively making up for the lack of defense while having almost nobody to contain Giannis. 

Round Four: Boston vs. Los Angeles (Lakers)

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis. Charles Krupa, AP.

If the Celtics could pull off an upset against the Bucks, it would most likely lead them to the Lakers in the finals. Again, despite a small sample size, the Celtics have matched up well against Los Angeles. In the first meeting between the two, the Celtics blew out the Lakers 139-107 led by Jayson Tatum’s 27 points. In the second meeting, Tatum dominated again putting up 41 points. However, the Celtics did not come out on top this time being at a disadvantage with Kemba Walker out due to injury. No doubt this would be another tough matchup for the Celtics going up against one of the best to ever play the game, LeBron James and seven time all-star Anthony Davis. The Lakers are also a very well rounded team with few weaknesses. However, like all the other teams Boston would have to face, they are beatable. 

Clearly a 1-16 reseeded playoff would propose many challenges to the Celtics. But as we have seen throughout the season, if the Celtics are healthy they can beat just about anyone in the league. Only time will tell how long until the NBA playoffs start but when they come, we know the Celtics will be prepared for their opponents. 

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