The Celtics are just about locked into the No. 2 seed now

After last night's debilitating loss at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers the Boston Celtics have basically solidified themselves as the the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture:

It's highly unlikely at this point that the Celtics would be able to re-take the 1-spot from Cleveland as the Cavaliers not only hold a one game lead over the C's, but they also hold the head-to-head matchup with them wth a 3-1 advantage in their season series. With only 4 games left for each team the Celtics would have to finish two games better than the Cavs down the stretch and that seems highly unlikely. The Celtics play two playoff teams in their final four (Bucks, Hawks) including the 2nd leg of a back-to-back on the road tonight against Atlanta.

The one glimmer of hope for Boston would be that Cleveland has an even tougher finish to the season, with all four games coming against Eastern Conference playoff teams (one of them borderline), including matchups with the Raptors, Heat, and two showdowns with the Hawks. Best case scenario for Boston would likely be Cleveland finishing 2-2, which would mean Boston would have to win out. Brad Stevens said yesterday before the game that he had no plans to rest anyone Thursday night in Atlanta, and he was going to wait until after that game to assess where the Celtics stand:

"I've given it very little thought, other than the fact we are constantly in communication with our medical staff and everybody else about what is appropriate for these guys over the next couple weeks," Stevens said. "We'll see how (the meeting with Cleveland) goes. We'll see when we land (in Atlanta) and all that other stuff that comes into play. Right now, our intention is to keep playing and get some rhythm."

If the C's drop tonight's game against the Hawks expect Stevens to considering limiting the minutes for some of his starters over those final three games, although he's been on the record that he wants his guys playing well going into the postseason - last night was the exact opposite of that.

You'll notice in the chart up top that there's still a remote chance that either Toronto or Washington could swipe that #2-seed from the Celtics. The Celtics would have to finish 1-3 or worse and either of those teams would have to win each of their remaining contests to have a shot.

Essentially it's looking like the road to the finals in the East will go through Cleveland. While it would help the Celtics a great deal to have home-court advantage against every opponent in their conference the road to the finals was going through Lebron either way. He's been to the finals 6 straight years and only in two of those campaigns was his team the #1-overall seed. He's king of the East until he isn't anymore.

Related: ESPN analytics has Bulls as Celtics most likely 1st round opponents

Photo Credit - Charles Krupa/AP Photo

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