Our picks for all 8 seeding games

Boston has a tough road right out of the gate in Orlando, starting with the Milwaukee Bucks then taking on a healthy and motivated Portland Trail Blazers squad. But with a lighter back end of the schedule, the C’s could take a lot of momentum into the playoffs. Here are our picks for all 8 seeding games.

Celtics schedule

All times Eastern

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Relative to the rest of the NBA, the Celtics actually match up with the Bucks fairly well. Boston has multiple elite defenders to throw at Giannis and an ability to make shots the Bucks’ defensive system is designed to give up – midrange and above the break 3s.

Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis all shoot above 40% from 8ft-16ft.  

The primary function of the Bucks’ defense is to prevent corner threes and protect the paint. In order to protect the paint, Milwaukee is extremely reluctant to abandon their position around the rim which leaves mid-range jumpers and above the break 3’s wide open.

The NBA has been shut down for a few months so every team is going to have to shake off some rust and even though both the Celtics and the Bucks rely heavily on team chemistry, I have to defer to the team with the most unstoppable force to power them through a slow start.

Pick: Bucks 116-107

2. Portland Trail Blazers

Portland is playing for their playoff lives in these 8 games and they finally have Jusuf Nurkic back. So far Nurkic has looked good in his return to the court; in their last scrimmage he racked up 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Even with Nurkic back in the lineup, the Blazers have no wing presence at all. This matchup is going to feature two teams who can exploit the others’ weakness – size in the frontcourt against Boston and no small forwards for the Blazers. Considering the wing position is where the bulk of the Celtics’ scoring and talent comes from, the Blazers are doomed even if Nurkic does have a career night.

Pick: Celtics 111-104

Related: 5 Celtics place in top 40 of ESPN’s NBA player rankings

3. Miami Heat

The Miami Heat are getting a lot of national attention as a team that could make some noise in the bubble but the fact of the matter is they don’t have the talent to upset anyone (besides maybe the 76ers).

Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown can shut down Miami’s perimeter shooting with relative ease considering they’ve faced much worse than Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro in the past. On the other end, Jimmy Buttler and Bam Adebayo are the only ones who pose a defensive threat to Boston.

The Celtics have four players who average over 17 points per game and the Heat only have two formidable defenders. Unless Jimmy Buttler and his 25% 3-point percentage (rounding up) decide to take over the game, the Celtics should walk away with their 3rd win against the Heat this season.

Pick: Celtics 115-110

4. Brooklyn Nets

This season the Celtics are 1-2 vs the Brooklyn Nets and games on the second night of a back-to-back would usually be a scheduled loss. However, the Nets have been scrambling to find competent basketball players just to court a team in Orlando.

The short-lived Michael Beasley signing marked the eighth Nets player who won’t be participating in the bubble.

Even though everyone will be excited to see a Jamal Crawford return, it won’t translate to a lot of wins. This game will be closer than it should but Boston will walk away with a win.

Pick: Celtics 112-107

5. Toronto Raptors

The battle for the 2 seed could come down to this game. Boston is 2-1 vs the Toronto Raptors this season, but Toronto is an extremely well coached team that plays hard every single night so this is going to be a very tough game for the C’s to pull off.

These two teams could very well see each other in the playoffs down the road so neither Brad Stevens nor Nick Nurse will want to show the other all their cards in the first meeting of the restart. The chess match between these two great basketball minds starts early in the bubble.

The Raptors currently own the 2nd best defensive rating and the 4th best net rating in the NBA, both of which are better than the Celtics. This game goes to the Toronto Raptors, but it won’t be the last meeting between them.

Pick: Raptors 109 – 104

Related: Celtics broadcast interrupts Jaylen Brown before answering social justice question

6. Orlando Magic

In the two games the Celtics and Magic have faced off this year, Boston is 2-0 winning by an average margin of 13.5 points per game. The only players the Magic have who are worth being concerned about are Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac, and Evan Fournier.

The Celtics have the defensive versatility to stop Gordon from driving to the hoop or creating his own shot as well as to shadow Fournier around the court, effectively smothering his entire offensive game.

Jonathan Isaac played extremely well in his NBA bubble debut against the Nuggets – 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 assist. He is an elite defender and is more than capable of knocking down catch and shoot 3’s but lacks the ball-handling to create his own shot.

As far as Vucevic goes, if the C’s can keep him out of the paint they can mitigate the damage he is capable of doing to them. Now Vucevic can spread the floor but it won’t be nearly enough to make up for all their other shortcomings in this matchup.

Pick: Celtics 113-103

Related: Domantas Sabonis injury: Pacers becoming Celtics’ likely first-round playoff opponent

7. Memphis Grizzlies

The Boston Celtics won the only matchup they’ve had against the Memphis Grizzlies this year 119-95. The Grizzlies have a lot of young talent centered around Ja Morant, but if he’s not scoring Memphis will have a lot of trouble winning any games.

Marcus Smart was tasked with being Ja Morant’s primary defender last time and Smart absolutely dominated that matchup – Morant’s final stat line was 2 points, 5 assists, and 1 rebound in 24 minutes.

If Marcus Smart and the Celtics’ defense have another performance like that, Boston should roll right past the Grizzlies.

Pick: Celtics 114 – 102

8. Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards are going to be the NBA bubble’s punching bag for the next few weeks. Bradley Beal opted out with a shoulder injury, as did Davis Bertans due to his impending pay raise via free agency.

That’s just under 40% of their scoring for the entire season.

The only way the Wizards have a chance is if Brad Stevens decides he wants to rest everyone before the playoffs.

Pick: Celtics 120-109

The only two losses for the C’s will be against potential playoff opponents but in a 7-game series, Boston has enough firepower and defensive versatility to get past the Raptors and the Bucks. No need to panic just yet.

Our picks for all 8 seeding games have the Celtics going 6-2 and riding a 3-game win streak into the playoffs.


1 Comment

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