Celtics loss

Why a Celtics loss in Game 3 could be especially demoralising

The Boston Celtics loss have encountered a minor stumbling block on their way to repeating as Eastern Conference champions.

The Celtics assured that they would not accomplish a second consecutive four-game sweep in the first round of the NBA playoffs by losing Game 3 to the Atlanta Hawks. Instead, they’ve now guaranteed that the series will go at least five games and that it will return to Boston after Game 4 on the road. At first look, the loss appears to be inconvenient but otherwise insignificant for Boston.

Until Saturday, that is.

On Saturday afternoon, the Philadelphia 76ers completed a four-game sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, securing their place in the NBA playoffs’ second round. Who is their adversary? The winner of the Celtics-Hawks series, which we now know will go at least until Tuesday.

Is it really such a huge deal? Wrong.

“Doc Rivers said he is unsure whether Joel Embiid will be ready for the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps tweeted on Saturday. “He then stated that he thought it was ‘probably 50 percent, at best.'”

In allowing the Hawks to secure a victory Friday, the Celtics not only added another game to their schedule but have now pushed back the start of a potential second-round series with the 76ers. That not only gives Embiid more time to rest up his sore right knee, but will also add another 48 minutes (at least) worth of work onto Boston’s plate as it prepares for what could be a trying run through the Eastern Conference.

Embiid, who is likely going to take home the 2023 NBA MVP award, has been masterful this season. The 29-year-old averaged a career high in points (33.1) and assists (4.2), while putting together respectable rebound (10.2) and block (1.7) numbers on his way to a sixth-consecutive All-Star appearance. The star has been the heart and soul of Philadelphia’s run this far, meaning a potential absence could prove deadly to the Sixers.

The Celtics may have ensured that there is no absence, however, as one more loss could delay the start of the second-round series just enough to help him recuperate. Boston didn’t exactly play with its food, but may see a “meaningless” loss turn into something much more down the road.