The Boston Celtics squad missing Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon took a major victory over Toronto Friday night. Jayson Tatum only played one half, giving Boston 21 points of the 68 scored in the half.
Sam Hauser was the night’s biggest surprise, supplying the Celtics 26 points on 62.5% shooting from the field. He also made half of the six 3-point shots he made. Payton Pritchard also gave the Celtics 22 points after being on the injured list the last six games.
Moving into the last game against the season, the Eastern playoff and play-in spots are all set. After Friday night’s game, the Celtics will be playing either Miami or Atlanta after the play-in.
The Celtics have a big recent history with Miami, last season beating them in seven games to move to the Finals. In 2020, the Heat bested Boston in the bubble to go to their first Finals since 2014.
This season, the Celtics have split the season series with Miami, both losses within four points. The Miami Heat who currently sit at the 7th spot in the East, are set to face Atlanta for the playoff spot.
Although the Celtics have taken two against the Heat, both wins were early on in the season. The most recent matchup was Jan. 24, and saw the Celtics’ fourth-quarter collapse for a Miami win. A third of the Celtics points came from Tatum with 31, but saw no Brown, Horford, or Brogdon.
The other loss came at the beginning of December and saw Brown leading the way with 37 points and 14 rebounds. On the other side, the Miami Heat had four players who contributed 20 points or more: Lowry, Butler, Adebayo, and Herro. However, since the Celtics’ last two meetings with Miami, their roster has increasingly gotten better and players have found their roles. Despite Miami’s shortcomings this season, they will be a very difficult team for a first-round matchup.
The Hawks are debatably the easier team to face for Boston. The Hawks have had a roller coaster of playoff history the past few years. Atlanta missed the playoffs from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The following year the Hawks went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the eventual champions. Last season, the Hawks clinched the 8th spot in the East, similar to this season.
The Celtics have faced the Hawks twice this season and will face them a third time on the last day of the season. Both games resulted in large-scoring games, and wins for the team in green.
Boston’s first matchup saw seven Celtics players score 14 points or more to lead to a 126-101 game. The second matchup in March resulted in a 134-125 game.
The Celtics have had an incredible offense all season, despite a few shortcomings on the defensive end. Atlanta is a team that has struggled with defense for a while now; Trae Young is mostly known for his long-range and lack of defense.
Despite the Western Conference not being completely decided, the Celtics have found their destiny in either Miami or Atlanta. The Celtics face the Hawks on the last day of the season, April 9 at 1 EST.
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(Featured photo credited to Winslow Townson/Getty Images)