The Boston Celtics finished the 2020-21 regular season with a .500 record or worse for the first time since 2015. With that disappointing distinction, they get the honor of participating in the NBA’s first-ever postseason Play-In Tournament.
Their opponent Tuesday night will be the Washington Wizards, with the winner securing the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Washington enters the play-in fray one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winning 17 of their last 23 games. It’s not hard to figure out how they got here. Russell Westbrook posted averages of 23 points, 13.5 rebounds and 14 assists over the stretch, while Bradley Beal – who just missed out on the scoring title – poured in 31 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting.
A hamstring issue pushed Beal to the sidelines for three of the last four games of the regular season. He returned for the finale and shot just 8-for-27. If Beal isn’t 100 percent, it makes the job a lot easier for the Celtics, as Washington doesn’t employ many offensive creators beyond its dynamic duo. Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans are two players who can go for 20 points once in a while, but they aren’t often called upon for such an expenditure.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.