Celtics get No. 2 seed in the East, embrace what’s to come

The Boston Celtics made the right decision to push for the No. 2 seed in Sunday night’s regular season finale in Memphis.

Boston has been the best team in basketball for the past three months and there was no need to play with the system in hopes of avoiding a potentially thorny first-round game against a Brooklyn Nets team with the 20th ranked defense in the NBA.

Challenging the basketball gods can produce the kind of bad mojo that even sage Kyrie Irving can’t eradicate. It was the rest of the NBA that should have scrambled to avoid the Celtics because of their second-half play.

Here’s what finishing second in the East means for the Celtics in the playoffs

The Celtics have gone 28-7 in their last 35 games. They had the best offensive, defensive and net rating in the league during this period. Boston outscored opponents by 525 points in that span. They created an even bigger gap between the closest rival with Sunday’s beatdown of the Grizzlies, who are second plus/minus since Jan. 23 at plus-295.

Listen, we understand the consternation. No. 2 seeds normally don’t have to worry about not having the best player on the court in a first-round series. Kevin Durant will make this series tougher than most quarterfinal matches. And Irving’s presence adds a whole logo-stomping ‘nutha sidebar to the festivities. There would have been a lot less headache going up against sixth-seeded Chicago and maybe even fifth-seeded Toronto.

But we are already getting ahead of ourselves. The Nets still need to win a playoff against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night just to set up this first-round showdown. Cleveland took an injury-induced dip in the second half of the season, but they’re still frisky enough to push the Nets into a one-game battle.

The pain points of a potential matchup in Brooklyn are always more than outweighed by the positives gained from passing a demoted Bucks team at the finish line. The Celtics would have home-court advantage in a possible second-round series against Milwaukee.

Yes, a potential Brooklyn-Milwaukee-Miami path to the NBA Finals is less than ideal. But all of those teams will be less than thrilled to see Boston on the other side as well.

The Celtics certainly could have downgraded on Sunday, but that would have left some of the team’s key pieces with limited game action over a 10-day span. A Celtics-Nets matchup looks destined to rock with a spotlight on Easter Sunday April 17.

But instead of leaving their fate to how the Sixers (minus Joel Embiid and James Harden) fared against the Detroit Pistons, Boston just stepped on the gas in Memphis and reached the finish line. of the season.

Jayson Tatum was fantastic, making a final case for All-NBA First Team consideration with 31 points on 14 shooting in 26 minutes. Al Horford has found his move since Valentine’s Day, Derrick White – acquired around the same time – could also find his.

The Celtics would probably feel better if Robert Williams was healthy and on the pitch to start the playoffs. The team is optimistic about his return potential early in his 4-6 week schedule, perhaps even opening the door for a late first-round return if the team struggles without him.

The Nets have talent but have rarely shown themselves capable of being a legitimate contender. The Celtics should still be the best team based on their play over the past 12 weeks while dropping from 11th place in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics trusted this team by going there on Sunday. The basketball gods should take notice and we’ll see if they’ll be rewarded when the playoffs roll over.

And, remember, the Celtics have rarely taken the easy route this season.