The NBA’s Play-In tournament is still very much a possibility for head coach Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics.
Between now and the end of the regular season, most Celtics fans eyes’ will be glued to the Eastern Conference standings. Prior to the start of the 2020-21 campaign, the NBA Board of Governors approved implementing a Play-In tournament for teams seeded between seven and 10 from both the Eastern and Western Conference.
Strictly on a one-year basis, the ninth and 10th respectively-seeded teams of each Conference will fight for the eighth and final playoff spot while teams slotted in seventh and eighth play for the higher seed.
The Celtics, while on a four-game winning streak, remain in the danger zone. Currently locked in at fifth, Boston (29-26) is trailing the fourth-placed Atlanta Hawks by 1.5 games while the Miami Heat (28-27) — slotted seventh — is on the Celtics’ heels by one game.
Celtics’ Brad Stevens On NBA’s New Play-In Format: ‘It Is What It Is’
Stevens, who was asked about the league’s new playoff format, understands the thrill that comes with this kind of change. For the fans, it adds a new element of excitement.
Seeing which teams outside the playoff picture will have a chance to squeeze into the postseason is entertaining, as well, as watching a potential eighth-seeded team’s season come to an end. The Celtics have their work cut out for them.
“It is what it is,” Brad Stevens said Wednesday night before taking on the Portland Trail Blazers. “That’s the way they’re going to determine the playoffs and seven through 10 are going to play for those last two spots. I really don’t have a reaction to it other than that’s the way they decided to do it. I understand the entertainment value that comes with the play-in games.”
The Celtics head coach also added that playing for the highest playoff seed isn’t the goal. Instead, Stevens added, he will be making decisions based on what’s best for his players’ health.
“That said, we will not prioritize our seed over our players’ health, that’s for sure,” Stevens said. “If there’s somebody that needs to sit, Jayson (Tatum) or Jaylen (Brown), or whoever. I think we’ve been pretty consistent with Kemba (Walker) this year, as well. We’ll land where we land, and hopefully, we get a chance to keep playing and move on.”
Stevens After Celtics’ Win Against Trail-Blazers: ‘It Sure Helps When We Have More Healthy Bodies’
After an impressive 116-115 road win against the Trail Blazers, Stevens emphasized how injuries have derailed Boston for much of the regular season. Not having important core players can affect winning.
That’s shocking, right?
Now, equipped with a healthy Marcus Smart, a symptom-free Jayson Tatum, and a Kemba Walker, whose back-to-back sets remain in his rear-view mirror — for at least, another week — Stevens is starting to see continuity in his starting unit.
“It sure helps when we have more bodies healthy,” Stevens said after Wednesday’s win. “I don’t think it’s brain surgery. I think we’ve got guys that have now played a little bit together; getting in a rhythm together.”
The Celtics will look to stretch their winning streak to five straight when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday night.