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Irish Coffee: Odds are, Celtics not No. 1?

03.14.11 at 11:47 am ET

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

We’re entering the home stretch of the NBA season, and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is a definite possiblity for the Celtics. But according to John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds, the Bulls have a better shot — and the Heat have almost no shot — at that top spot.

While an Eastern Conference finals Game 7 at home is an added bonus, the ultimate prize for whichever of those three teams captures the No. 1 seed is the simple fact that the other two would have to battle each other in the conference semifinals, while the No. 1 seed would face either the Magic or Hawks in Round 2 — regardless of what Celtics head coach Doc Rivers or Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau would have you believe …

Rivers: “I would like it. It’s not going to be a deal-breaker for us, honestly. I want it, though. I think it’s important. But right now I can say I’m not focused on that at all. I’m not thinking about the one-seed at all. Early in the year we were clearly thinking about it, but right now I think about getting guys back healthy. Let’s act like a one-seed even if we’re not.”

Thibodeau: “That doesn’t guarantee anything. Where I think it does make a difference is Game 7 of a playoff series, to have it at home. You want to do your best to put as many things in your favor as possible.” 

So, the No. 1 seed has been the C’s ultimate goal all season, but it’s no longer the priority now that the Bulls have threatened to take it from them? I’m not buying it. The Celtics want that top seed, and they just might need it. How close will the race for the No. 1 seed be? Down to the wire, for sure. See for yourself …

CELTICS (47-17; 18 games remaining)

  • at New Jersey (21-43)
  • vs. Indiana (28-38)
  • at Houston (33-34)
  • at New Orleans (39-29)
  • at New York (34-31)
  • vs. Memphis (36-31)
  • vs. Charlotte (28-38)
  • at Minnesota (17-51)
  • at Indiana (28-38)
  • at San Antonio (54-12)
  • at Atlanta (38-28)
  • vs. Detroit (23-44)
  • vs. Philadelphia (34-32)
  • at Chicago (47-18)
  • vs. Washington (16-48)
  • at Miami (45-21)
  • at Washington (16-48)
  • vs. New York (34-31)

Home games remaining: 7
Opponents’ winning percentage: .482 (571-615) odds to capture No. 1 seed: 39.4 percent
Record vs. remaining teams on schedule: 29-8 (.784)
Games remaining against .500-plus teams: 9
Games remaining against potential playoff teams: 12

BULLS (47-18; 17 games remaining)

  • vs. Washington (16-48)
  • at New Jersey (21-43)
  • at Indiana  (28-38)
  • vs. Sacramento (15-49)
  • at Atlanta  (38-28)
  • vs. Memphis  (36-31)
  • at Milwaukee  (26-39)
  • vs. Philadelphia  (34-32)
  • at Minnesota  (17-51)
  • at Detroit  (23-44)
  • vs. Toronto  (18-48)
  • vs. Phoenix  (33-31)
  • vs. Boston (47-17)
  • at Cleveland (12-53)
  • at Orlando  (42-25)
  • at New York  (34-31)
  • vs. New Jersey  (21-43)

Home games remaining: 8
Opponents’ winning percentage: .415 (461-651) odds to capture No. 1 seed: 57.1 percent
Record vs. remaining teams on schedule: 28-10 (.737)
Games remaining against .500-plus teams: 7
Games remaining against potential playoff teams: 8

HEAT (45-21; 16 games remaining)

  • vs. San Antonio (54-12)
  • vs. Oklahoma City (42-23)
  • at Atlanta (38-28)
  • vs. Denver (39-27)
  • at Detroit (23-44)
  • vs. Philadelphia (34-32)
  • vs. Houston (33-34)
  • at Cleveland (12-53)
  • at Washington (16-48)
  • at Minnesota (17-51)
  • at New Jersey (21-43)
  • Milwaukee (26-39)
  • vs. Charlotte (28-38)
  • vs. Boston (47-17)
  • at Atlanta (38-28)
  • at Toronto (18-48)

Home games remaining: 7
Opponents’ winning percentage: .462 odds to capture No. 1 seed: 3.5 percent
Record vs. remaining teams on schedule: 27-7 (.794)
Games remaining against .500-plus teams: 7
Games remaining against potential playoff teams: 9

Trailing four games in the loss column with 16 to play, the Heat have almost no chance of capturing the top seed — and in all likelihood will end up third. The Bulls, on the other hand, face the easiest schedule (by far) of the three teams.

The Bulls trail the Celtics by one game in the loss column and have a 1-2 record against the C’s this season, so their April 7 showdown in Chicago could decide the No. 1 billing. A Celtics victory would give them the head-to-head tiebreaker, and the Bulls would have to make up three games in the loss column with 17 to play.

However, should the Bulls defeat the C’s on April 7 and the two teams finish 2-2 against each other this season, the Bulls would likely own the third tiebreaker (division record), as Chicago is a perfect 12-0 in the Central Division with one game apiece remaining against the Pacers, Bucks, Pistons and Cavaliers.

Meanwhile, the Celtics are 10-2 in the Atlantic Division with four games remaining against the Knicks (2), 76ers and Nets. So, be sure the Celtics have April 7 circled.

Should they lose that game to the Bulls, Celtics fans can take solace in the fact that Will Perdue — a four-time champion with the Bulls in the 1990s — doesn’t believe Chicago can defeat Boston, regardless of the seeding …

Perdue (via CSN Chicago): ‘€œI think they can beat the Hawks, the Magic — any other team right now — except for the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series.’€

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

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