Breaking Down the Celtics' Eight 'Seeding Games'
BOSTON – After months of careful planning, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association finalized a deal Friday that would enable the 2019-20 Season to resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex located at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Beginning July 30, each of the 22 participating teams – including the Boston Celtics – will compete in eight “seeding games,” which will determine the structure of the 2020 playoff bracket.
Being one of 12 teams that have already clinched a postseason berth, Boston doesn’t have to worry about an early exit from the campus. However, the seeding games still hold immense value for the third-place C’s, considering how they currently reside just three games behind the second-place Toronto Raptors and four and a half games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings.
For the Celtics, there will be plenty of exciting action taking place from July 31 through Aug. 13, so we have broken down each of their eight matchups to prepare you for the pre-playoff journey.
Friday, July 31 at Milwaukee Bucks – 6:30 p.m. (NBCSB/ESPN)
Bucks’ 2019-20 record: 53-12; vs. Celtics: 1-1
Just before the NBA suspended its season, the Celtics were in Milwaukee getting ready to take on the Bucks. Four and a half months later, Boston and Milwaukee will pick up right where they left off. For the Celtics, they will be getting their biggest challenge out of the way right off the bat. At 53-12, the Bucks have the best record in the NBA, and they’re also on track to log the fifth-highest average point differential in NBA history at plus-11.3. With that being said, Boston is one of the few teams that has proven able to hang with Milwaukee this season based on its two prior matchups. The C’s won the first battle on their home court, 116-105, before dropping a tight road contest, 128-123. The Bucks had no answer for Kemba Walker during either of those matchups, as he scored 32 points and 40 points, respectively. On the flip side, Boston will of course have its hands full trying to contain reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who ranks among the top three scorers and rebounders in the league.
Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 3:30 p.m. (NBCSB/ABC)
Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 record: 29-37; vs. Celtics: 0-1
Don’t let Portland’s losing record fool you. This team was a Western Conference finalist last season, it boasts one of the best backcourts in the league, and it is sure to be playing with extra urgency as it attempts to rise up from ninth place into the playoff picture. How the Blazers match up against the Celtics is difficult to gauge, considering how neither team was at full strength during their lone matchup on Feb. 25 in Portland, which the Celtics won, 118-106. Both teams were missing their All-Star point guards that night, as Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker were both sidelined with injuries. With those two guys back, alongside their respective backcourt mates in C.J. McCollum and Jaylen Brown, this should be a fun matchup to watch.
Tuesday, August 4 at Miami Heat – 6:30 p.m. (NBCSB/TNT)
Heat 2019-20 record: 41-24; vs. Celtics: 0-2
The Miami Heat may not be the most challenging opponent on Boston’s upcoming schedule, but they certainly pose the biggest overall threat in regard to playoff seeding. Sitting two and a half games out of third place, Miami has the best chance of any Eastern Conference team to surpass the Celtics in the standings. As such, Aug. 4 could very well be the most important night of Boston’s regular season. For what it’s worth, the Celtics fared quite well against Miami this season. They won both matchups, including one in Miami where the Heat went an impressive 27-5. Away from home, Miami was just 14-19, so that could also play to the Celtics’ advantage at a neutral site.
Wednesday Aug. 5 vs. Brooklyn Nets – 9 p.m. (NBCSB/ESPN)
Nets’ 2019-20 record: 30-34; vs. Celtics: 2-1
Of the eight opponents Boston will face, only one has a winning head-to-head record this season. That team is the Brooklyn Nets, who the Celtics will face Aug. 5. Despite being without injured superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn has been a thorn in Boston’s side of late. The Nets have won two out of three matchups this season, including a 129-120 overtime victory March 3, which contained a massive fourth-quarter comeback led by Caris LeVert’s career-high 51-point effort. You can be sure that Brad Stevens and the team will be reviewing plenty of defensive film ahead of this game as they look to even up the season series.
Friday, Aug. 7 at Toronto Raptors – 9 p.m. (NBCSB/TNT)
Raptors’ 2019-20 record: 46-18; vs. Celtics: 1-2
Before the NBA season entered its hiatus, the hottest team in the league had been the Toronto Raptors. The defending champions have won 21 of their last 25 games dating back to mid-January and currently have a three-game lead over the Celtics for second place, which means this matchup is of utmost importance for Boston as it attempts to make a run at the No. 2 seed. The Celtics have matched up well against the Raptors this season, winning two of their three matchups thus far, including a 118-102 road win on Christmas. If Boston manages to win this matchup as well, it would mark its first season-series victory against the Raptors since the 2012-13 Season.
Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Orlando Magic – 5 p.m. (NBCSB)
Magic 2019-20 record: 30-35; vs. Celtics: 0-2
The closest thing to a “home team” the Celtics will face throughout the remainder of the 2019-20 Season is the Orlando Magic, who will be playing right in their backyard every day. Though, obviously, home-court advantage ceases to exist when there are no fans in attendance and while playing at a neutral site. Regardless, this should be one of the more favorable matchups for the Celtics, who have defeated Orlando twice this season, both times by double digits. There is not a lot of wiggle room for Orlando, as it is firmly positioned to land either the seventh or eighth seed, barring a miraculous run by ninth-place Washington.
Tuesday, Aug. 11 at Memphis Grizzlies – 6:30 p.m. (NBCSB/TNT)
Grizzlies’ 2019-20 record: 32-33; vs. Celtics: 0-1
A win against Memphis on Aug. 11 could not only impact Boston’s postseason seeding, but it could also influence the franchise’s future beyond the 2019-20 campaign. That’s because the Celtics own Memphis’ 2020 first-round draft pick, which means that any upcoming loss that Memphis endures increases Boston’s chance of earning a higher draft pick ahead of the 2020-21 Season. The Celtics dominated its lone matchup against Memphis on Jan. 22, when they came away with a 119-95 victory at TD Garden. In the process, they held rookie phenom, Ja Morant, to just two points on 1-of-5 shooting. Morant has a little extra incentive this late in the season as he looks to pull away as the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, but the Celtics should have some extra incentive of their own with future draft value at stake.
Thursday Aug. 13 vs. Washington Wizards – Time: TBD (Broadcast: TBD)
Wizards 2019-20 record: 24-40; vs. Celtics: 1-1
The Washington Wizards have the lowest odds of any Eastern Conference team to make it into the Playoffs, so their fate will likely already be sealed by the time their last seeding game rolls around against the Boston Celtics. Even if that’s the case, Washington could play a potential spoiler to Boston. Despite their dismal record, the Wizards managed to give Boston some trouble during the regular season, most recently with a 99-94 win Jan. 6 in D.C. Hopefully for the Celtics, they will have already sealed their playoff seed by this date anyway.