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Celtics Clinch No. 2 Seed In East With Blowout Win On Final Day Of Regular Season

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics had no desire to avoid the No. 2 seed on Sunday night. Boston pummeled the Grizzlies, 139-110, on the final day of the regular season to secure the two-seed in the Eastern Conference.

That will set up a first-round matchup with whichever team claims the East's seven-seed, which will come down to a play-in game between the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets will host the Cavaliers Tuesday night, with the winner advancing to face Boston.

While the Milwaukee Bucks seemingly played to avoid the two-seed on Sunday, sitting the majority of the team's starters, the Celtics did not. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford all played 20-plus minutes to help Boston build a 23-point lead by halftime.

"We were worried about ourselves," head coach Ime Udoka said after the win. "And now, we'll dig into Cleveland and Brooklyn."

Tatum finished with 31 points in 26 minutes in his final tune-up before the playoffs. Brown had 18 points in his 23 minutes while Horford had 13 points and six rebounds, also over 23 minutes. Memphis, which had already locked up the two-seed in the West, rested all of its starters for the game.

With Milwaukee losing to the Cavaliers, 133-15, on Sunday, the Bucks fell to the three-seed in the East and will match up with the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Though Milwaukee and Boston finished with identical 51-31 records in the regular season, the Celtics earned the two-seed thanks to the fifth tiebreaker -- owning a better record against East playoff teams than the Bucks.

The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons on Sunday to also finish 51-31 on the season, so had the Celtics lost to the Grizzles, Boston would have fallen to the four-seed in the Eastern Conference. Instead, Philadelphia finished as the four-seed and will now play the Toronto Raptors in the first round.

While the two-seed will perhaps bring a first-round matchup against Kevin Durant, Kryie Irving (and potentially Ben Simmons), that possibility didn't seem to bother the Celtics on Sunday. And really, it shouldn't. The Celtics put all their first-half dysfunction in the rear-view mirror in January and were one of the best teams in the NBA over the second half of the regular season. They possess the best defense in the NBA, two star players in Tatum and Brown, and they really shouldn't fear any opponent at this point. Locking in the two-seed will also give Boston homecourt advantage in the second round -- should they advance, of course.

Boston went 3-1 against Brooklyn during the regular season, with the most recent matchup -- a 126-120 Celtics win off a 54-point night by Tatum -- coming on March 6. The Celtics went 2-1 against the Cavaliers in the regular season. Game 1 of Boston's first-round series is set for sometime on Sunday, April 17.

A potential Brooklyn-Milwaukee-Miami path to the NBA Finals is going to be a tough road for Boston, but winning a title isn't easy. And given the fact their starters played to win on Sunday, the Celtics aren't afraid of taking the hard road this postseason.

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