Celtics face Nets in last tuneup before postseason

By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange  |  April 11, 2018 at 12:10 AM
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The Boston Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night in a regular-season finale that won't affect the postseason.

But while the Celtics go through the motions on Fan Appreciation Night, they will have a collective eye trained on the out-of-town scoreboard.

They are waiting to see who they will play in the first round of the playoffs that begin this weekend.

Tuesday night, second-seeded Boston had a chance to bury the Washington Wizards in the eighth spot in the final standings, leaving Washington in a first-round matchup with the top-seeded Toronto Raptors.

But the Celtics were thumped 113-101 by the Wizards, a team that played half the season without an injured John Wall and one you might want to avoid in the playoffs -- with Wall rounding into shape. With the win, the Wizards, who engaged in a mean-spirited seven-game series against the Celtics last year, remained in a three-team scramble with the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat.

Through Tuesday, the Bucks were in sixth place, a game ahead of the Heat and Wizards -- the Heat holding the 7-8 tiebreaker with Washington.

The Bucks will try to end the Philadelphia 76ers' 15-game winning streak in Philadelphia (where the Sixers can clinch the third seed) Wednesday, thus finishing sixth -- and also avoiding surrendering their No. 1 draft choice to the Phoenix Suns by finishing seventh or eighth.

Miami hosts Toronto in yet another potential first-round matchup and while the Raptors have clinched first in the East, they are in a close battle with the Golden State Warriors, second in the West, for home-court advantage in a potential final.

The Wizards, 3-1 against Boston this season, are at the out-of-the-money Orlando Magic Wednesday night for the back end of a back-to-back.

In one scenario, if the Sixers win their 16th straight win, Washington and Toronto win on Wednesday night, the Celtics face No. 7 Milwaukee, which loses its draft pick.

Yes, it's complicated.

Before Tuesday's game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "(The last-minute seeding) is no more than of a stress on our staff than the staff we're playing against. At the end of the day, we'll work and be ready to play Saturday or Sunday, whenever we play."

Regardless of who they play, the Celtics, who have lost four of their last five, will be without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis, although they did get some good news Monday on Marcus Smart.

The energetic Smart, who had surgery to repair a tear in his right thumb, is on target for a six-week return, which would be later this month. But he still won't be around in the opening round -- the loss of Irving and Smart putting more of a burden on Terry Rozier, who has slumped and also suffered from an ankle injury in the last four weeks.

The Celtics are 3-0 against Brooklyn this season, but the three wins have been by a total of 12 points -- and Irving was the leading scorer in each of the three games.

The Nets have won three straight -- their first three-game winning streak of the season -- and are 7-5 in their last 12 after losing 18 of 21.

"Things are maybe turning that corner that we wanted to get a little early in the season, but it's better late than never," Allen Crabbe said after his career-high 41 points led his team to a 114-105 win over the Chicago Bulls Monday night.

Boston is 7-0 against Brooklyn over the last two seasons.

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