Given the way that the NBA feels about teams tanking during nationally televised games, Adam Silver will probably fine me for writing this column. But here it goes. The Boston Celtics should lose on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards on ESPN. Yes, the Celtics are a contender, and no, they’re not tanking for a draft pick. Yet, they’d still benefit from losing against their rival Wizards.
Boston Celtics Would Benefit from Losing to Washington Wizards Wednesday Night
First, the Celtics have almost no chance at the first overall seed in the Eastern Conference. As of Tuesday evening, Celtics are four games back of the Toronto Raptors, who aren’t slowing down for anything. Kyrie Irving is dealing with knee soreness, while Marcus Smart has a torn thumb tendon. Jaylen Brown has a concussion, while Daniel Theis is out for the year with a torn meniscus.
Put simply, the Celtics are not going to catch the Raptors with just 15 games left in the season. But they’re also 6.5 games up on the Indiana Pacers for the second seed, meaning that they’re pretty much locked into the 2nd seed.
Given that their seeding is all but assured, the Celtics’ first and second round opponents are what matters most at this point. The Celtics do not want to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in Round 2. Remember last year, when the Celtics won a thrilling Game 7 on May 15 against the Wizards thanks to Kelly Olynyk and Isaiah Thomas and then won the NBA Draft Lottery on May 16? Celtics fans were feeling pretty good about their franchise. And then, on May 17, they weren’t. The Cavs came into the TD Garden and took a 22 point halftime lead.
The Wizards, Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Philadelphia 76ers are all duking it out for the third seed. The two teams, who finished with the 4th and 5th seeds, have to play each other in Round 1 and likely the Raptors in Round 2. Therefore, it’s in the Celtics’ best interest for the Cavs to finish in either the 4th or 5th slot, clearing the Celtics to face the Pacers or Wizards in Round 2, instead of LeBron James and his minions.
Cleveland Cavaliers Still a Huge Threat
Any Celtics fan who says they’re not scared of the Cavs is lying. Sure, the Celtics have Kyrie this year, but the Cavs have LeBron and a roster that isn’t dealing with approximately 473 injuries. LeBron has a 16-1 record in the playoffs against Al Horford and, if their two teams were to face again in the playoffs, LeBron’s team would likely get 20 wins.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Toronto Raptors as a playoff matchup yet. The Raptors and their perimeter scoring are a tough matchup for the Boston Celtics, especially if Marcus Smart is out.
That’s why it’s imperative for Boston that Toronto and Cleveland face each other in Round 2. If the Cavs and Raptors can beat each other up for six or seven games – while the Boston Celtics can delay facing either one of them until the Conference Finals – the Celtics are in a much better position than facing LeBron right after he’s probably swept another first round opponent, like he does every year.
Also, a significant factor is the slight possibility of a Gordon Hayward return for the Celtics. We shouldn’t count on it, but Hayward wouldn’t rule out a return last week. Holding off the Cavs/Raptors until Round 3 would give Hayward another two weeks to come back.
If you’re still not sold, think of it this way: Which path to the Finals would you rather have?
- A) Round 1: Milwaukee Bucks. Round 2: Pacers/Wizards. Round 3: Cavs/Raptors.
- B) Round 2: Bucks. Round 2: Cavs Round 3: Raptors.
Exactly. If you’re a Boston Celtics fan, root for a loss on Wednesday night.