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The race to the 2021 NBA playoffs has hit the home stretch -- and it's still as tight as ever.
Only 3.5 games separate the No. 4 and No. 8 seeds in the Eastern Conference with about a month until the postseason, which begins May 18 with the Play-In Tournament followed by the first round on May 22.
The Boston Celtics (32-29) are in that tightly packed middle group with just 12 games remaining in their season. After going 7-3 in their last 10 games -- including a loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday -- the C's still have time to either grab hold of the No. 4 seed or tumble as low as No. 9 in the East.
So, where do things currently stand for Brad Stevens' club, and what may lie ahead? Here's what you need to know about the Celtics' push for the playoffs.
What is the format for the 2021 NBA Playoffs?
This year's playoffs feature a new wrinkle: the NBA Play-In Tournament. Here's how it works: The No. 7 through No. 10 seeds in the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, respectively, qualify for the Play-In Tournament.
The tournament begins May 18 and consists of two rounds for each conference with the following format:
No. 7 seed vs. No. 8 seed (winner earns No. 7 seed; loser to Round 2)
No. 9 seed vs. No. 10 seed (winner to Round 2; loser eliminated)
Loser of 7-8 vs. Winner of 9-10 (winner earns No. 8 seed; loser eliminated)
Once the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds are decided for each conference, the first round will begin May 22 with the traditional format: seven-game series featuring the 1-8, 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5 matchups.
Where are the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings?
The Celtics currently own the No. 6 seed in the East, just behind the New York Knicks at No. 4 and the Atlanta Hawks at No. 5. The Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks all are at least four games ahead of New York, but things get very bunched up from No. 4 to No. 9.
GB From No. 1
4. New York Knicks
5. Atlanta Hawks
6. Boston Celtics
7. Miami Heat
8. Charlotte Hornets
9. Indiana Pacers
Who would the Celtics play in the first round?
If the season ended today, the Celtics would face the Bucks in the 3-6 matchup. Boston is two games behind Atlanta in the standings and the Hawks also own the tiebreaker after taking the season series 2-1.
Here are the East matchups if the season ended today:
No. 1 Brooklyn Nets
No. 8 Charlotte Hornets
No. 2 Philadelphia 76ers
No. 7 Miami Heat
No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks
No. 6 Boston Celtics
No. 4 New York Knicks
No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
What is the Celtics' remaining schedule?
The Celtics have 11 regular-season games left, and their upcoming schedule is no picnic: Seven of the 11 games are against teams currently in the playoffs or Play-In Tournament.
Here are Boston's next five games:
Tuesday, April 27
Wednesday, April 28
Friday, April 30
Sunday, May 2
Wednesday, May 5
What are the Celtics' playoff odds?
The Celtics currently have +4000 odds to win the 2021 NBA championship -- odds provided by our partner, PointsBet Sportsbook.
In the Eastern Conference, four teams have better title odds than the Celtics: The Brooklyn Nets (+225), Milwaukee Bucks (+650), Philadelphia 76ers (+1200) and Miami Heat (+3000).
We'll update this article as the postseason nears, so stay tuned for the latest on the Celtics' playoff chances.
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