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Celtics' Playoff Scenario Breakdown

By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The start of the NBA postseason is less than one week away but there is still plenty of uncertainty looming for the Celtics and the remainder of the Eastern Conference when it comes to the playoff picture. Eight teams have already clinched playoff berths in the East, but there isn't a single one of those squads that knows its seed for the first round just yet.

The Cavs (56-24) have a two-game edge over the Raptors (54-26) for the top seed in the East, while the Pacers (43-37) and Pistons (43-37) are tied in the seventh spot with two games to play in the regular season. Sandwiched in the middle of those two battles are the Celtics, Hawks, Heat and Hornets who are separated by just two total games in the battle for the 3-6 seeds.

With home games looming against the Hornets and Heat to close out the regular season, Boston's positioning in the Eastern Conference standings won't be set in stone until Wednesday night in all likelihood. Here is the full breakdown on how the team's play over the final two games will impact its quest for homecourt advantage and a chance to avoid the Cavaliers as long as possible in the Eastern Conference postseason.

Current Standings

3. Atlanta (48-32)
4. Boston (47-33)
5. Miami (47-33)
6. Charlotte (46-34)

Closing Schedules

Hawks: @ CLE, @ WAS
Celtics: vs. CHA, vs. MIA
Heat: @ DET, @ BOS
Hornets: @ BOS, vs. ORL

Head-to-Head Tiebreakers

BOS over MIA (2-0)
BOS over CHA (2-0)
ATL over BOS (3-1)
ATL over CHA (3-1)
MIA over CHA (2-2, but MIA holds better division record)
MIA over ATL (3-1)

Celtics Scenarios

Celtics finish 2-0: Boston will clinch home court advantage for the first round since it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Heat. The Celtics could also conceivably jump the Hawks and grab the three seed if Atlanta stumbles in its final two regular season games. Those odds aren't great, but it's certainly a possibility with Cleveland attempting to clinch the top seed in the East Monday evening against Atlanta. The Wizards have nothing to play for the remainder of the season besides pride, but that didn't stop the talented squad from upsetting the Hornets at home on Sunday.

Celtics finish 1-1 (beat CHA, lose to MIA): The Celtics will be locked into 4-5 first round matchup against the Heat or Hawks. Home court advantage will be dependent on Miami's result against the Pistons on Tuesday night in Detroit. If the Heat win that matchup and beat Boston in the season finale, they will grab at least the No. 4 seed and potentially the third seed (if the Hawks drop their final two games). If the Heat lose to the Pistons on Tuesday night, the Celtics will clinch home court advantage and at least the No. 4 seed since they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Heat.

Celtics finish 1-1 (lose to CHA, beat MIA): Once again, Boston would be locked into the No. 4 seed with home court advantage, since it owns both tiebreakers already over the Heat and Hornets. It's possible the teams could end up in a four-way tie for the No. 3 seed if they all finish with a 48-34 record, but the Hawks would win that stalemate by virtue of being a division winner. That scenario would bump Boston down to the No. 4 spot and a date with the Hornets or Heat would loom in the first round.

Celtics finish 0-2: The Celtics will not have home court advantage in the first round following this weak finish. Where they fall in the final playoff seeding will be solely dependent on how the Hornets fare on Wednesday night against the Magic. If Charlotte wins, the Celtics are the sixth seed. Otherwise, they will be locked into the fifth seed and would open up the postseason on the road against either the Hawks or Heat.

Final takeaways

  1. The Celtics clinch the fifth seed or better with a win against the Hornets Monday night.
  2. The Celtics' magic number to earn home court advantage in the first round is two. They will be awarded at least the No. 4 seed with a win against the Heat Wednesday night or with a victory Monday night against Charlotte combined with a loss by the Heat Tuesday night.
  3. The only way the Celtics can grab the No. 3 seed is by winning their final two games and the Hawks also losing their final two.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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