The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards will meet Tuesday night in the NBA’s first-ever full-season Play-in Tournament. Rather than leap straight into the classic best-of-seven 16-team playoff bracket, four teams in each conference will battle it out for the final four spots in the field.
The seventh and eighth-place teams will face off, and in the East that means the Celtics and Wizards. The winner of this game will be slotted seventh in the playoff bracket and take on the Brooklyn Nets. The loser gets to host the winner of the 9-10 game, with the champion of that contest getting the eighth and final spot to face the Philadelphia 76ers.
In essence, both the Celtics and Wizards get two tries to make it into the field. While the teams might have a preference between the Nets and 76ers as an opponent, the risk of losing the second game and missing the playoffs entirely is much too great to do anything but go all out on Tuesday.
The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are on opposite trajectories and will meet Tuesday night in the NBA Play-in. What are the must-follow storylines?
These two teams arrive at this showdown heading in very different directions. The Washington Wizards have been on fire since falling to 19-33 on April 10th. Over the 20 games since they have gone 15-5, with Russell Westbrook breaking the record for most career triple-doubles. They squeaked out a win in game 72 against the Charlotte Hornets to ensure they were on the premium side of the play-in bracket.
The Boston Celtics are not just “happy to be here” but have to be as disappointed as their fans are. The Celtics were in the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago and are equipped with the most valuable commodity in the modern NBA, a pair of young two-way wings ascending into stardom. Yet they finished with the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference, 36-36, and went just 5-10 over the final stretch. One of those young wings, Jaylen Brown, is out for the year with a wrist injury.
Boston won the season series 2-1 over their three meetings, but they last played on February 28th. Since then the Wizards have redefined their center rotation and found a new and actually helpful Russell Westbrook. The Celtics have likewise changed their big rotation, added a new wing in Evan Fournier and lost Brown to injury. These two franchises have a lot of history, including some beef that most of the current players had nothing to do with. It is still possible things get chippy, and both teams will surely do anything it takes to win.
Let’s walk through a key matchup and three key questions to this one-game playoff, before proffering a prediction for Tuesday night.