The Boston Celtics were in the brute of scrutiny at the early juncture of the season as NBA fans even went as far as clamoring to breakup the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown duo this season. The franchise did not make the outside noise influence their decisions as they went on a massive turnaround beginning of the year. Coach Ime Udoka has been the key to constructing an excellent defensive system that has propelled Boston to a likely top-four seed in the NBA Playoffs.

Tatum, Brown, and Marcus Smart are still the best players on the squad, but they will miss the services of Robert Williams III for the first round of the playoffs at the very least.

A torn meniscus injury for Williams will sideline him for four-to-six weeks. This will be a huge loss for them as the defensive anchor and lob threat for Boston. Even with their 0-2 record since Williams’ injury, these are the first round matchups the Celtics must prefer.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers 

The Cleveland Cavaliers went on one of the most impressive cinderella runs early in their campaign. Fans decided to cheer for them as their secondary team, but injuries have unfortunately affected the ceiling of Cleveland. It is already a given that Ricky Rubio and Collin Sexton are out for this season, but Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are still not fully healthy with only two weeks left in the regular season.

The experience and depth of the Cavaliers will be questionable in a playoff series as the Celtics can definitely pounce on that weakness. This core of Boston have been together for numerous playoff runs already, making them a threat to knock off Cleveland in four or five games. Even if the twin tower combination of Mobley and Allen get healthy before the playoffs, Udoka has the front court of Al Horford, Grant Williams, and Daniel Theis to combat their size.

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2. Chicago Bulls 

Another team that surpassed all the preseason expectations was the Chicago Bulls. DeMar DeRozan was a legitimate MVP candidate for the first 40-50 games of the season. Zach LaVine proved doubters wrong by flourishing alongside another ball-dominant wing. However, their numbers have been terrible since the All-Star break. The role players have struggled along with their abysmal defensive showing every night.

Chicago has been losing to struggling and eliminated teams in March, which is a recipe for disaster entering the playoffs. Conversely, Boston is on the hottest stretch in recent years as they have catapulted themselves to legitimate championship contention. Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Patrick Williams have missed a slew of games. That’s forced their defense to suffer and put the responsibility on Nikola Vucevic to protect the paint.

3. Toronto Raptors 

The more talented bunch from Chicago and the Toronto Raptors would swing to Chicago, but the Raptors are the more playoff-experienced and gritty group who will not quit until the bitter end. Toronto has more than a couple of athletic wings to utilize on Tatum and Brown, along with their fantastic skill set on the offensive end as well.

To add to that, the Raptors have beat Boston twice already this season. So, they will have the confidence of possibly upsetting the Williams-less Celtics. Additionally, Boston is one of the two Eastern Conference organizations who have not revealed if their team is fully vaccinated. In order to enter Canada, you need to be. That could be a problem, especially if they are part of the main rotation.

The Celtics are here for a tough ride. Their impeccable defense will have to be what gives them any sort of chance despite the absence of Williams.