by Blake Krantz
For the first time since the departure of veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics are in the playoffs.
Playoff basketball is somewhat uncharted water for this young Celtics team, with just five players on their current roster who have been in a playoff game.
Boston clinched a playoff spot last night when the Brooklyn Nets fell to the Chicago Bulls, 113-86. The Celtics have now won four in a row, surprising many with their late season success.
Going into the year, little was expected of the Celtics, who were looked at, like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic, as a potential NBA lottery team.
With their current win streak, the Celtics look likely to fall into the seventh seed in the conference. They are currently one game ahead of the eighth-seeded Indiana Pacers, who have made a playoff push of their own upon the return of star forward Paul George. Both the Celtics and the Pacers have two games remaining.
If the standings remain the same in the following days, the Celtics will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, and although a pair of wins against Cleveland in the past week may give fans hope for Boston to pull off the upset, it will be a near impossible task for a young and inexperienced Celtics team.
The Cavaliers boast the best player in the NBA: LeBron James. Throughout his career, he has looked like a different player in the spotlight of the playoffs. It seems unlikely that the Celtics will find an answer for James in the first round. James posted a triple-double last night against Detroit, with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Also fighting for a spot in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat look likely to miss the playoffs, as they sit over a game out of the playoffs with a mere two nights left in the season. The Heat have been Eastern Conference Champions each of the last four seasons, a streak which is likely to end this year.
In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans are still tied for the final playoff spot, now at 44-37. Both teams play their final game of the season Wednesday night, against the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
Aside from the Golden State Warriors, who have clinched the top spot in the Western Conference, the standings in the West have seen lots of movement in the past few days, leaving fans scratching their heads at the long list of potential first-round opponents.
Suddenly, the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio spurs are fighting for the second seed in the conference, in large part due to a 94-86 win for the Clippers over the previously second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
In the next two nights, the playoff picture will finally be established, the end of an exciting season with promise for a spring of equally exciting playoffs.