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Celtics’ chances of surviving the play-in tournament appear slim

The Boston Celtics sit seventh in the NBA Eastern Conference, putting them indefinitely in the play-in-tournament as of right now. So the real question remains — What are their chances of surviving the play-in and moving on further?

With their most recent losses Sunday and Tuesday both to the Miami Heat and last night to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they are now three games behind the five-seed Heat and only two ahead of the eight-seed Charlotte Hornets. They’ve got a big hole to dig themselves out of and a tough road lies ahead.

Their remaining two games include the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday and the New York Knicks on Sunday. The Timberwolves are currently out of the play-in tournament so assuming the C’s win against them, their strongest competition will be against the six-seed Knicks before entering the real battleground.

Fine-tuning needed

The Celtics have allowed other teams to score 70+ points in the first half in three of the last four games. In order for them to have any chance of surviving another round, they need to start coming out stronger in the first half and avoid so many turnovers. We’ve seen young players like Aaron Nesmith show more confidence as a leader after scoring 16 points in his 19 minutes on the floor Sunday.

Remember when people were calling Aaron Nesmith the best shooter in the draft? Well, he's coming alive. Nesmith leads all NBA players in 3P% over the past month (min 30 attempts) 1. Nesmith – 53.3% 2. Seth Curry – 52.9% 3. Neto – 52.3% 4. Durant – 51.7% 5. Marcus Morris – 50.7% — Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) May 10, 2021

Evan Fournier gave the C’s some momentum also as the leading scorer on Sunday with 30 points and 8 assists but it was not enough as the Celtics would lose 124-130. Despite these glimmers of hope, Boston is running out of steam. To make matters worse, it was announced on Monday that Jaylen Brown is done for the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist, per CBS Sports.

Here's my best guess for when Jaylen Brown's injury occurred. With 28 seconds left in the Thunder game. He said he was fine after the game, played three games afterward, even lit up the Hornets the night after this. But he clearly hurt the left wrist here. — Jay King (@ByJayKing) May 10, 2021

Head Coach Brad Stevens said to Brian Scalabrine in Sunday’s pre-game interview that the team faces a big size disadvantage against the Heat and the Chicago Bulls from a few games ago. So their only saving grace is to take advantage of the healthy players they do have and focus on their strengths.

A turning point for them this season has been relying on Rob Williams. With Williams in the game, the team has an offensive rating of 119.2  compared to 109.7 when he was out due to injury. But who knows if he’ll be back in time for the play-in as he and three other Celtics starters are on the injury report.

#NEBHInjuryReport vs. Cleveland: Jaylen Brown (Left Scapholunate Ligament Tear) – OUT Marcus Smart (Right Calf Contusion) – OUT Kemba Walker (Left Knee Injury Management) – OUT Robert Williams (Left Foot Turf Toe) – OUT — Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 12, 2021

Celtics playoff picture

It seems that a near-perfect performance on all ends of the floor and an injury-free roster will be needed to have any success moving forward. If they remain seventh in the conference, they’re projected to play the second-ranked Brooklyn Nets in the first round; not exactly an easy way to kick things off.

We really need to see this team fired up and confident to make any noise come May 18th. Their lack of confidence and added frustration shows and they need to change their mindset immediately. Although the season seems to be slipping away for Boston, anything can happen in the playoffs. If they can play with a sense of urgency, they may stand a chance — it’s not over until it’s over.

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