The Boston Celtics have clinched the #3 seed in the east, but there are a few reasons why tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies is still a must-win.
We now know that the Boston Celtics will neither rise nor fall from the #3 seed they had when the season was suspended. After a 4-2 start in the bubble–including a victory to the #2 seeded Toronto Raptors and a loss to the #4 seed Miami Heat–the C’s have maintained the status quo of being one of the top three teams in the east, and also possess the fourth-best record in the entire association.
That said, tonight’s game against a Memphis Grizzlies team fighting for their playoff lives is still a must-win for both teams. The Grizzlies are slipping from the #8 seed after a 1-5 start in the Lake Buena Vista bubble in Walt Disney World. Portland is just a half-game back as of this writing, and the Phoenix Suns have shocked the world, running the table in the bubble through six games and have clawed to within a game of Memphis themselves.
The incentive to win for the Grizz is obvious. For the C’s, it’s less obvious, but nonetheless present. Here are 3 reasons why tonight is a must-win game:
1. Continue to build momentum for the playoffs
The first three games of the bubble seeding slate were rough for the Boston Celtics. They fell behind early against Milwaukee on (re)opening night and never were able to recover, and they seemed lethargic throughout their loss to the Heat on the first night of a back-to-back.
Since then, they have reeled off three consecutive wins, including eastern playoff opponents that have similarly had success in the bubble in Toronto and Brooklyn. If they can win tonight, Brad Stevens could rest his players during the final game against the hopeless Washington Wizards without any worries regarding momentum.
2. Improve the position of Memphis’ pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Let’s not forget that the C’s own the Grizzlies’ pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. At the beginning of the season, there were expectations that Memphis would be a cellar dweller. Instead, they have emerged as a playoff hopeful, though those hopes are fading as the seeding schedule has unfolded.
If Boston can hand them yet another loss and further contribute to Memphis’ demise, they would be helping themselves in the process. Who knows what can happen to that pick in the lottery…just hope it doesn’t sneak into the top six or else the Celtics would lose the choice due to pick protections.
3. Make one last statement before the playoffs
A lot of players in the NBA bubble would be happy with the Boston Celtics if they were able to knock off the Grizzlies. Players from the Trailblazers, Suns, and San Antonio Spurs would certainly be grateful for the C’s prolonging their playoff hopes.
More importantly, though, the Celtics need to make a statement to the league and to themselves that they are an elite team that has a legitimate shot at winning the NBA Championship in 2020.