With the regular season nearing a close the Boston Celtics seem to be peaking at just the right time. The C's currently claim the most wins in the Eastern Conference, and are locked in virtual tie with the Cavaliers for the top seed heading into the playoffs - albeit Cleveland has 10 games remaining to Boston's 8. That said the Celtics have the best record in the NBA over their last 10 games (8-2) and look to have hit their stride while Cleveland is 5-5 over that same stretch and has struggled to look like themselves.
Al Horford has been playing at his best of the season, Avery Bradley's return to the lineup has bolstered the C's defense, and Isaiah Thomas has continued to carry the scoring load with no sign of slowing down. ESPN has moved the Celtics up to 4th in their power rankings, overtaking the Cavaliers and trailing just the three top teams out West - Houston, San Antonio, and Golden State:
While ESPN's power rankings are figured mostly on the teams recent play and Win/Loss record, FiveThirtyEight.com are the masters of analytical forecasting and they've just moved the Celtics as the most likely team to finish the season as the #1-seed heading into the postseason in the Eastern Conference:
Note they have the Celtics at a 66% chance to come out of the regular season in first and Cleveland holding onto 2nd in a two team race with the other 33%. Beyond that they've got the C's tied for the 3rd best chance to take home the NBA title at 6%, which is twice the odds they give Cleveland with a 3% chance to win back-to-back championships. Even Washington is ranked ahead of the Cavs with a 5% chance to win the whole thing.
We talked a little bit about the Celtics odds of winning both the 1-seed and the Eastern Conference last night on the CelticsLife Podcast, and my thinking was maybe the Celtics get a slight edge for title odds because they match up better with the Warriors than Cleveland? With the Celtics cake schedule to finish the season it's no surprise they're favored to take the claim the 1-seed, but if Cleveland is healthy in the playoffs I still think the C's are fighting an uphill battle even if they hold home-court. We've seen LeBron turn it to another level too many times when the playoffs roll around for me to ever underestimate whatever team he's on.
It's great to see the Celtics getting some love from ESPN and FiveThirtyEight, and given their play of late they certainly deserve it. Check some great NBA betting lines here. Winning 14 of their last 15 in Boston means that home-court advantage will go a long way in helping secure a deep postseason run, but color me skeptical when people start saying the C's have a better shot than Cleveland to win the title. Although it's certainly not impossible, we all know anything's possible, and I'm getting amped up to see some of the playoff battles that await.
Photo Credit - Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 3/27/2017 05:36:00 PM Tweet Edit