The NBA regular season is winding down and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. While some teams have already clinched their spots in the postseason, others are still fighting for a chance to make the play-in tournament or avoid it altogether.
One of the most intriguing scenarios involves the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors, two teams that have a history of rivalry and have met in the playoffs twice in the last four years.
The Celtics are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 34-31 record, while the Raptors are 11th with a 27-38 record.
The Celtics have a comfortable lead over the seventh-seeded Miami Heat (32-30) and are unlikely to fall into the play-in tournament, which involves the teams ranked seventh to 10th in each conference.
The Raptors, on the other hand, are two games behind the 10th-seeded Washington Wizards (29-36) and need to make up some ground in order to qualify for the play-in tournament.
If the Raptors manage to sneak into the play-in tournament, they would have a chance to face the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
The play-in tournament works as follows: the seventh and eighth seeds play each other for the seventh seed, while the ninth and 10th seeds play each other for the right to face the loser of the first game for the eighth seed. The winner of that game becomes the eighth seed and faces the first seed in the playoffs.
The Raptors would need to finish 10th and win two games in a row against the ninth seed (currently the Indiana Pacers) and the loser of the seventh-eighth game (currently either the Heat or the Charlotte Hornets) to secure the eighth seed.
The Celtics would need to finish fourth and avoid any upsets in their remaining games to secure their spot.
If this scenario happens, it would set up a fascinating first-round matchup between two teams that know each other well and have had some memorable battles in recent years.
The Celtics eliminated the Raptors in seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals, while the Raptors beat the Celtics in six games in 2016’s first round.
The Celtics have had an inconsistent season, dealing with injuries, COVID-19 protocols and chemistry issues. They have shown flashes of brilliance, such as their recent wins over the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets, but also suffered some embarrassing losses, such as their recent blowout by the Chicago Bulls.
They have a talented core led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, but also lack depth and defensive intensity at times.
The Raptors have had an even more challenging season, playing away from their home city of Toronto due to travel restrictions and facing numerous health and safety issues.
They have also traded away some key players, such as Norman Powell and Marc Gasol, and rested some of their stars, such as Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, down the stretch. They have a resilient group led by coach Nick Nurse, but also lack size and experience compared to previous seasons.
Both teams have something to prove in this potential matchup. The Celtics want to show that they are still contenders in the East and that they can overcome their internal problems.
The Raptors want to show that they are still relevant and that they can pull off a historic upset. It would be a clash of styles, cultures and personalities that would make for an exciting series.
Of course, this scenario is far from guaranteed. The Raptors still have a lot of work to do to make the play-in tournament, let alone win two games there.
The Celtics still have some tough opponents left on their schedule, such as the Nets and Heat, and could slip in the standings or face a different team in the first round. But if it does happen, it would be one of the most intriguing storylines of this year’s playoffs.
Final Thoughts: Raptors vs Celtics Playoff Matchup
The possibility of a Raptors vs Celtics playoff matchup is certainly intriguing, given their recent history and the potential clash of styles and personalities.
The Celtics have a talented core but have struggled with inconsistency and chemistry issues this season, while the Raptors have faced numerous challenges, including playing away from home and resting some of their stars.
However, it is important to note that this scenario is far from guaranteed. The Raptors still have a lot of ground to make up in the standings to even qualify for the play-in tournament, let alone win two games there.
The Celtics also have some tough opponents left on their schedule and could face a different team in the first round.
That being said, if this matchup does come to fruition, it would make for an exciting series that could go either way.
The Raptors would have a chance to pull off an upset and prove that they are still a relevant team in the East, while the Celtics would have a chance to show that they can overcome their internal problems and contend for a championship.
Overall, while it is fun to speculate about potential playoff matchups, it is important to remember that there are still many variables at play and anything can happen in the NBA playoffs.