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Wizards vs. Celtics, Hornets vs. Pacers Set for 2021 NBA Play-in Tournament

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 16, 2021

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) dunks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics are headed to the NBA's play-in tournament, and Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards await them. 

The Celtics (36-36) will face the Wizards (34-38) in the tournament, with the winner securing the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The loser will then face the winner of the matchup between the Charlotte Hornets (33-39) and Indiana Pacers (34-38), with the winner of that contest securing the No. 8 seed. 

Essentially, Washington's 115-110 victory over the Hornets on Sunday gave it two chances to reach the playoffs through the play-in tournament, while the Hornets will now need to go 2-0 in that tournament to qualify. 

But all eyes will be on the Celtics, who are trying to make the postseason for the seventh straight year under head coach Brad Stevens. He led them to three conference finals appearances in his first seven seasons, though Boston is looking for its first NBA Finals berth since 2010.

The Celtics entered this season as potential championship contenders after going to the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals, but they haven't looked the part this year. They were 25-26 through 51 games as injuries to Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart took a toll on the team. In addition, the C's didn't get much offensive production outside All-Stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, with the post players notably failing to provide more scoring help.

Boston shook up its roster before the March 25 trade deadline, dealing big man Daniel Theis and bringing in Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier. The return of Walker and Smart helped them engineer a late-season turnaround. However, Smart has recently dealt with a calf injury that makes his status for the play-in tournament uncertain, and Boston hasn't improved much since their sluggish start.

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With Brown now out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery, the Celtics can no longer be considered a lock to advance to the postseason. Would anybody be shocked if the hot Wizards—who went 15-5 down the stretch—stole the No. 7 seed from them? Or if the Celtics failed to reach the postseason at all?

The battle for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference is wide-open. All four teams are legitimate threats to secure one of the two available berths. LaMelo Ball and the Hornets could be a problem. Domantas Sabonis isn't to be taken lightly in a win-or-go home game. 

The play-in tourney in the East is going to be fun.

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