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Celtics will face either Miami or Chicago in first round of NBA playoffs

BOSTON -- The Celtics' list of potential first-round opponents is down to just two. Boston will play either the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls when the postseason tips off at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.

The 8-seeded Heat lost to the 7-seeded 76ers while the 9-seeded Bulls beat the 10-seeded Hawks in Wednesday night's play-in tournament, setting up a Heat-Bulls showdown in Miami on Friday night. The winner of that game will then head to Boston to take on the top-seeded Celtics in the first round.

Game 1 of that opening-round series is set for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at TD Garden.

The Heat gave the 76ers a scare in Philly on Wednesday, jumping out to a 14-point lead at one point in the first half. But they cooled off considerably in the second half and allowed Joel Embiid and the 76ers to storm back. Philadelphia held on for a 105-104 victory, and will now face the 2-seeded Knicks in the first round.

To make matters worse for Miami, Jimmy Butler hurt his knee Wednesday night and is now expected to miss multiple weeks with an MCL injury, according to Shams Charania. Butler played the final three quarters Wednesday night after suffering the injury, and finished 5-for-18 from the floor for 19 points. Not having their leader on the floor will make things awfully difficult for Miami going forward.

The Bulls are off to Miami after blowing out the Hawks, 131-116, in Chicago on Wednesday night. Coby White went off for a career-high 42 points, while big man Nikola Vucevic put in 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Bulls. But Chicago is dealing with an injury of its own, as guard Alex Caruso suffered a nasty left ankle sprain and could be done.

Friday night's Bulls-Heat showdown in Miami is set to tip off at 7 p.m.

The Celtics will be watching that game, but they really shouldn't fret about either opponent. Boston won all three regular-season matchups against each team, and scored double-digit victories against the Bulls in all three games. They had a 33-point blowout win over the Heat in Miami in January, with the other two games decided by four and eight points. 

But there's always an uneasy feeling around a Miami matchup, since the hard-nosed style of the Heat makes them a dangerous foe. They went to the Finals as an 8-seed last year, upsetting the top-seeded Bucks in five games in the first round before stunning the Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Matching up with the Heat would give the Celtics a shot at some revenge, and should guarantee that they'll be a focused group when the postseason tips off.

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