After the Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics own a three-game cushion on the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with five games to go.
Milwaukee owns the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Celtics, but Boston's magic numbers -- by our rough calculations -- is three (any combination Boston wins or Milwaukee losses) to ensure Boston won't slip past the seventh spot. A glance at each team's remaining schedule:
Boston's remaining schedule: vs. Brooklyn (Wednesday), at Miami (Friday), at Orlando (Saturday), vs. Indiana (Tuesday), at Toronto (4/17).
Milwaukee's remaining schedule: at Orlando (Wednesday), at Atlanta (Friday), at Charlotte (Saturday), vs. Denver (Monday), at Oklahoma City (4/17).
If Boston stands firm at the seventh seed, it would put the Celtics on pace to play the New York Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs. The Knicks, winners of 13 straight, have a 2.5-game edge over Indiana (it'd be more but the Pacers rallied from a ridiculous deficit to top Cleveland on Tuesday).
The question is whether Boston can (or desires to) shuffle up. The Celtics are 1.5 games back of the Atlanta Hawks (and 2 games behind the Bulls). It's unlikely Boston can leapfrog both teams in such a short span, but if they went full throttle to the finish line, it could potentially catch one. The gain is marginal at best in moving up one spot and the guess here is that Boston will continue to err on the side of rest and health, and be content to simply remain in front of Milwaukee.
A glance at Atlanta's remaining schedule: at Philadelphia (Wednesday), vs. Milwaukee (Friday), vs. Toronto (Tuesday), at New York (4/17).
Hollinger's Playoff Odds predict the East will maintain order: