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Avery Bradley on facing Hawks: ‘I think it’s good for us’ 04.14.16 at 12:27 am ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley celebrates next to Miami Heat forward Luol Deng Wednesday at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley celebrates next to Heat forward Luol Deng during Wednesday’s game. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

The guesswork is over. 

The No. 5 seed Celtics will be playing the No. 4 Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. 

“I think it’s good for us, for our sake we get to play them again especially how, our performance the last time,” Avery Bradley said. “We played them there in Atlanta, gives us a chance to go back and play the way we did [Wednesday].”

Well, at least in the second half Wednesday. 

The Celtics were a no-show for 24 minutes on Wednesday night before outscoring the Heat 25-5 in the third quarter and getting themselves back in the game with intense defense. 

The Hawks team they will be facing beat them three of four times in the regular season, including this past Saturday, when the Celtics couldn’t hold a late 87-75 lead. In that game, they were outscored 43-20 down the stretch and lost by 11, 118-107. 

“Well, obviously Atlanta’s really good,” Brad Stevens said. “Atlanta’s beaten us three out of four times and they’ve got some tough matchups. They’re a good basketball team. A really good basketball team.  And so we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to competing against them, we’re looking forward to preparing for them.

“And so, as far as [Wednesday], we just had to decide that we were going to play differently, and we were going to get back to being ourselves a little bit.  That didn’t mean that we were going to make every shot, turn them over, or they were going to miss open shots, but it meant that we were going to, you know, compete at a different level than we were.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens
Studs and Duds: Celtics rally from 26 down, beat Heat in season finale 04.13.16 at 10:50 pm ET
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Apr 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts during the second half of a game against the Miami Heat at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts during the second half of Wednesday’s game at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

A comeback for the ages had it all — the ugly, the good and the bad.

For a third straight game, the Celtics fell behind by double digits with home-court advantage potentially on the line. This time it was a 26-point first-half deficit against the Heat, at home in front of members of Boston’s title teams from 1966, 1976 and 1986.

That all changed at halftime, as the Celtics used a 20-0 run to complete a historic comeback with a 98-88 win over Miami.

And now for the bad: A Hawks loss to the Wizards ensured the victorious C’s would still travel to Atlanta as the fifth seed in the first round of the playoffs. Had the Celtics lost to Miami, they would have visited the Heat as the No. 6 seed in the opening round, with a potential second-round series against the Raptors looming. Instead, a first-round win likely means another date with the Cavaliers.

Anyhow, back to the game at hand: Isaiah Thomas (21 points) led five Celtics in double figures, and Avery Bradley added 17 points. Joe Johnson and Hassan Whiteside each scored 19 points to lead the Heat.

After the Heat took a 62-38 lead into the half, the Celtics roared back in the third quarter, slicing the deficit to 67-65 entering the final frame. The C’s set a franchise record for fewest points allowed (5) in the third quarter. With 9:39 left in the fourth quarter, Kelly Olynyk’s three-point play gave the Celtics their first lead of the night — 72-69, and Jonas Jerebko’s ensuing 3-pointer completed a 39-7 Celtics run.

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Isaiah Thomas wins Red Auerbach Award, tells fans ‘We’re going to need you for a deep run in playoffs’ 04.13.16 at 9:12 pm ET
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The only highlight in the first half Wednesday actually came before tipoff when Isaiah Thomas was awarded the 11th annual “Red Auerbach Award” – given annually to the player who embodies the spirit of the Celtics.

After accepting the award, he gave a brief speech to the fans.

“We want to thank you for all your support. We’re going to need you for a deep run in the playoffs,” Thomas said.

The Celtics then proceeded to go out and lay a 24-minute “egg” against the Heat, falling behind by as much as 26 in the first half and trailing, 62-38 at the half.

Apparently, the Celtics were humiliated to the point that they had no where else to go but up. They outscored Miami, 37-7, to open the second half, holding the Heat to five points in the third quarter, their best defensive effort of the year. 

The Celtics outscored the Heat, 60-26, in the second half to complete the largest comeback in the NBA this season, with a 98-88 win. However, with the Hawks losing to the Wizards in Washington, the Celtics finish with the No. 5 seed and start the playoffs on the road in Atlanta this weekend against the No. 4 Hawks. 

Despite blowing the 26-point lead in the second quarter, the Heat, by virtue of the four-way tie at 48-34, with their division and seal the No. 3 seed. They will face the No. 6 seed Hornets. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Red Auerbach Award,
Brad Stevens on playoff picture: ‘Biggest thing is getting back to playing with aggression’ 04.13.16 at 7:32 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is trying to fire his team up for the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is trying to fire up his team for the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For all the fret and worry over playoff scenarios, there’s one variable Brad Stevens is counting on: Togetherness. 

It’s what the Celtics coach felt was missing the most on Monday night in the 114-100 loss to Charlotte at TD Garden. And it’s exactly what needs to be on display not only in the season finale against Miami but heading into the playoffs. 

“I think no matter what, obviously we could win and not finish with home-court advantage,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game with Miami. “We could win and finish with home-court advantage. I think the biggest thing is getting back to playing with the aggression and the spirit that we’ve played with in the past that has got us to this point. We didn’t play with that on Monday, so that’s really been my focus. All of these scenarios and that stuff, I can’t keep up with it.”

Stevens was still able to joke about Monday’s loss. 

“When I was 17, I went and visited one of those people that tell you what you’re going to do with your life and they said you’re going to be an actuary or a basketball coach and I chose coaching,” Stevens said. “It’s probably a good thing because those numbers were spinning in my head when I look at them for five minutes.”

An actuary is defined on a Google search as “a business professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.” They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to study uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs.

“I guess on Monday night I was thinking, man, there are probably a lot of people thinking he’d be better off being an actuary. I guess time will tell.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Miami Heat
Poll: What is best 1st-round matchup for Celtics? 04.13.16 at 1:28 pm ET
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Thanks to the number-crunching of Ben Rohrbach, we now know all the first-round possibilities for the Celtics in the playoffs that begin this weekend. The question is: What matchup might favor the Celtics and which matchup might give the Celtics the best path through the East? Is it too early to start thinking about avoiding either Toronto or Cleveland in the second round? That’s a question for later. But for now, who do you want to see the Celtics face in the opening round?

What is the best first-round matchup for the Celtics?

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets
Every Celtics playoff scenario entering regular-season finale 04.13.16 at 7:42 am ET
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The East's myriad playoff scenarios are enough to even give Brad Stevens a headache. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

The East’s myriad playoff scenarios are enough to even give Brad Stevens a headache. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

Welcome to the final day of the NBA regular season, where the Eastern Conference’s No. 3-6 seeds are still undecided, and the Celtics could face either the Heat, Hawks or Hornets in the first round.

If the Celtics successfully sweep the Heat this season with a win at home on Wednesday night — no guarantee, given two straight ugly losses to the Hawks and Hornets since Saturday — they will:

  • a) host Miami as No. 4 seed if Atlanta beats Washington and Charlotte beats Orlando.
  • b) host Charlotte as No. 4 seed if Atlanta beats Washington and Charlotte loses to Orlando.
  • c) visit Atlanta as No. 5 seed if Atlanta loses to Washington.

And if the Celtics drop to 9-10 in their final 19 games with a loss to the Heat on Wednesday night, dropping a third straight game to a potential playoff opponent with seeding on the line — not exactly a ringing endorsement of their chances in the playoffs, should that happen — they will:

  • a) visit Atlanta as No. 5 seed if Charlotte loses to Orlando.
  • b) visit Miami as No. 6 seed if Charlotte beats Orlando.

Confused enough? Me too. Welcome to the East behind Cleveland and Toronto. Just print this out, laminate it and keep it in your back pocket — like Jim Nantz and his burnt toast requirements:

The Celtics will be seeded …

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How important is home court for Celtics? Maybe not as important as you think 04.12.16 at 8:59 pm ET
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The Celtics are ready to put on a playoff show for the likes of Patriots players Malcolm Butler (left) and Jamie Collins at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are ready to put on a playoff show for the likes of Patriots players Malcolm Butler (left) and Jamie Collins at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — This has been an odd year for the Celtics on their home court. 

They started off 9-10 on the parquet. They suffered humiliating losses to the likes of the Lakers and Brooklyn back-to-back to open the new calendar year. 

Then they went on a 14-game win streak, the longest in the 20-year history of TD Garden. They fell back to earth with a thud when they lost at home to schizophrenic Rockets, which preceded a blowout loss to Kevin Durant and the Thunder, a game they trailed by 30 at one point. The rebounded with four straight at home before losing a stinker Monday night to Charlotte, inexplicably getting outscored 39-13 in the third quarter. 

All of this leads to one simple question: Will home court, if they earn it Wednesday night against the Heat, really be a factor for the Celtics when the playoffs start this weekend?

“So I’m not going to concern myself with things I can’t control, again,” coach Brad Stevens said in a classic, pleasant-sounding misdirection of a reply. “Hey, I think no matter what, in the playoffs, you can’t be a dud on the road and expect to win a playoff series. And you can’t be good but inconsistent at home and expect to win a playoff series. You just have to play well in the games that you have.

“Again, these guys, our team, as bitter a taste as we may feel from last night, has put ourselves in a great position all year with their play. These guys have really done a lot of good things. And we’ll look forward to playing whoever we play, wherever we play, when that time comes.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas
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