Prior to the start of this season, ESPN projected the Boston Celtics to be the best team in the Eastern Conference with a record of 58-24. In reality, the Celtics have failed to meet those expectations. The Celtics currently hold the fourth seed with a record of 47-32 with three games left in the regular season, only ahead of the Indiana Pacers because of the tiebreaker. In the three games remaining, the Celtics and the Pacers will be battling for the fourth seed. While it would be nice for Boston to claim the fourth seed, it will not end up affecting much. Because of the layout and format of the playoffs, the fourth seed plays the fifth seed, so regardless of seeding the Celtics will be playing the Pacers in round one of the playoffs.
What the higher seed does do is give that team a home court advantage. Home court is given in a “2–2–1–1–1” format, meaning the higher seed plays the first two games of the series at home, followed by two games on the road, than a game back at home, a game away, and the final game seven back home. Game seven, if it comes to it, is the most crucial game of the series as a winner takes all, so having a home court advantage would be extremely helpful. Regardless of how the seeding ends up, Vegas Insider still projects the Celtics to outperform the Pacers.
One thing to know about the Celtics is how streaky they have been all season. They will go on runs where they are unstoppable and can’t lose, but they will go on just as many runs where they can’t win anything.
Another factor that contributes to if the Celtics win or not is Gordon Hayward. Hayward went down in game one of last season with a gruesome leg injury that kept him out all season. This year, fans hoped he would be back to his normal all-star caliber level of play, but he just never got there. A few games into the season, he was given a bench role as Marcus Smart entered the starting lineup. Some games, Hayward will show flashes of his old self, and when he does, the Celtics win. In games where he has scored 20 points or more, the Celtics are undefeated this season. By month, his efficiency has continued to rise – 37% in December has increased to 55% in March. When betting on the Celtics, keep in mind that Hayward is on an upward trend. His scoring and efficiency have continued to improve, which will only help the Celtics win.
Another rather surprising factor to keep in mind is Kyrie Irving. While no one will say that Irving is a bad player, he just has not meshed well into the Celtics style of play, and the statistics back this up. This season, the Celtics are 11-2 when playing without Irving. While that is a notable statistic, this should not be used as an argument come playoff time. The Celtics are a very young and inexperienced team playoff wise, so having a playoff veteran like Irving will be essential in the Playoffs.
Vegas Insider gives the Celtics 4/1 odds of winning the Eastern Conference and 25/1 odds of winning the NBA Finals.