East playoff race could come down to tiebreakers

The race for the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference has heated up over the past few weeks, and it figures to be a sprint to the finish as six teams are separated by just 4.5 games in the standings. Uneven play has become the norm for the Heat, Celtics, Pacers, Nets and Hornets, and the Milwaukee Bucks are just 5-13 since the All-Star break after an impressive first half.

Given the current situation, it's looking increasingly likely that a spot in the postseason, or at least a playoff seed, could be decided by the NBA's tieabreaker rules. So where do the Celtics stand if it comes to that?

Head-to-head matchups are the primary tiebreaking procedure. With this week's scores, Boston has already won the season series against the Nets and lost to the Heat, following Wednesday's disappointing defeat. The other three, however, are up for grabs.

After traveling to New York on Friday and hosting the Clippers on Sunday, the Celtics have three straight games against direct opponents which could make or break their season. They will be in Charlotte on March 30 in a must-win game to tie the series at two games apiece, and then have home games against the Pacers and Bucks.

The C's have won two of three against Indiana and have only faced Milwaukee once, a 96-93 defeat on February 7. After the April 3 game, the two teams will meet again in the regular season finale, possibly to decide the head-to-head matchup.

If the Celtics can rebound from their recent struggles, they could end up with three of the five head-to-heads in their favor, and they may need them, because the next tiebreaker basis is the conference record. In that department, Boston has a worse record against East teams (19-23) than both the Pacers (23-21) and the Hornets (22-19).

The Celtics have just 11 games left in the regular season: Five of those are against guaranteed playoff teams and four against their closest competitors. Now more than ever, every game counts.

Celtics' record versus:
Brooklyn: 3-1 (won season series)
Charlotte: 1-2 (one game remaining, March 30 @ CHA)
Indiana: 2-1 (one game remaining, April 1 @ BOS)
Miami: 1-3 (lost season series)
Milwaukee: 0-1 (two games remaining, April 3 @ BOS, April 15 @ MIL)

Follow Nick GarcĂ­a on Twitter @N_A_Garcia

Image credit: Mary Altaffer/Associated Press