Can the Celtics catch Toronto for top seed in East?

(John Solokowski/USA Today Sports)

The complexion of the East playoff race got a little bit more interesting the past couple weeks.

The defending Eastern Conference champions remade their team at the trade deadline and have won four straight games, which has helped them creep back into the top three. The Cavs still have a long road to climb to catch the Celtics for the second seed, but a floundering Celtics squad (6-9 in last 15) have made that a possibility if they can’t right the ship.

What needs to happen for the Celtics to hold off Cleveland? And how well do the Celtics have to play to catch the Raptors for the top seed and avoid a second-round showdown with LeBron James? Let’s examine the remaining schedules to handicap this race over the final two months of the year.

Current East standings

  1. Raptors 41-16
  2. Celtics 40-19 (2 GB)
  3. Cavs 34-22 (6.5 GB)

Head-to-head tiebreakers 

  • CLE owns tiebreaker over BOS (2-1)
  • BOS is tied with TOR (1-1 with two games remaining, one in each city)
  • TOR holds edge over CLE (1-0 lead with two games remaining)

Conference record standings (Second tiebreaker would be conference record if season series is tied)

  1. Raptors 25-7
  2. Cavs 25-12 (2.5 GB)
  3. Celtics 25-13 (3 GB)

Raptors (41-16)

Games remaining: 25 (Home: 13 Away: 12)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 16
Games against ‘tanking’ opponents: 8
Opponents’ winning percentage: .491 (18th toughest in NBA)