Boston, MA– Many prognosticators of the NBA predicted that the Boston Celtics could be penciled in for a date with the Golden State Warriors in June. This could still happen, but it looks less likely now than it did earlier, especially when you take into consideration the fact that some analysts like Bill Simmons of The Ringer even predicted that the Celtics would achieve one of the greatest regular season records of all-time.
Of course, none of this came to pass. The Celtics instead find themselves in the Eastern Conference's fourth seed with a date with the Indiana Pacers in the first round. This series begins tomorrow afternoon with an early game at one o'clock and will be broadcast on TNT. Fortunately, the Celtics have home court advantage, and they were 28-13 at home during the season.
The Celtics did not end up as the number one seed, but they got about as good of a draw as an underachieving team like them can get. Teams like the Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic are the likely contenders to pull off an upset in the East, whereas the Pacers have been fading fast since they lost their best player, Victor Oladipo, for the entire season. Without Oladipo, the Pacers have no one on the same level as Boston's Jayson Tatum, never mind Kyrie Irving.
That said, injuries could wind up plaguing Boston more than they have plagued Indiana. The Pacers have had time to adapt to what their rotation is like without Oladipo, but Boston is facing two very recent injuries. Tatum was kept out of the final stretch of the regular season, but says he will be good to go for tomorrow's Game One. He is still not confirmed to play yet. Additionally, Marcus Smart, one of Boston's best playmakers, tore his oblique against the Magic and will take four to six weeks to recover, which means he will miss the first two rounds of the playoffs, if the Celtics even get that far. Even Brad Stevens seemed to think the four to six weeks timetable was optimistic for Smart's return.
Boston is going to have to learn how to adapt without Smart, but with shorter rotations in the post-season, they should be able to maximize their talent to fill Smart's void. I definitely predict that the Celtics will win against the Pacers and I think they have a good shot against a similarly-depleted Milwaukee Bucks team. For now, I will say with semi-confidence that the Celtics will play in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it's too early to predict a run to the NBA Finals because we don't yet know their potential conference championship opponent. Certainly, there is still a path for Celtics success this post-season!