The 2021 NBA postseason gets underway on Tuesday night with the start of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. After the Indiana Pacers play the Charlotte Hornets in an elimination game, the Boston Celtics will take on the Washington Wizards in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup.
The latter will be a contest between two teams on drastically different trajectories. After entering the year with high hopes, the Celtics (36-36) have been injury-ridden and have rarely had their group at full strength. Losing Jaylen Brown to a season-ending broken wrist was just the latest setback for Brad Stevens’ club, leaving Jayson Tatum to shoulder the load for Boston in the postseason.
On the flip side, the Wizards (34-38) have been one of the hottest teams in the league since the All Star break. Russell Westbrook looked more like himself down the stretch on his way to breaking the all-time triple-double record. Alongside Bradley Beal, who averaged over 31 points per game in the regular season, the high-flying point guard helped lead the Wizards to a 17-7 record in the team’s final 24 games.
However, despite Washington’s recent performance, the ESPN Basketball Power Index gives the Celtics a 66.7 percent chance to advance to the first round on Tuesday night. A victory would earn Boston the No. 7 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, setting up a series against the Brooklyn Nets. A loss for the Wizards would keep them in the play-in tournament, where they would await the winner of Pacers vs. Hornets.
It’s possible that the losing head coach on Tuesday night could find themselves squarely on the hot seat as soon as Wednesday morning. Rumors have swirled about the uncertain futures of Stevens and Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, so both will have an extra incentive to get the win later this evening.
Celtics vs. Wizards will tip off at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday and air on TNT live from TD Garden in Boston.