NBA play-in

HIGHLIGHTS: Celtics vs Wizards – NBA Eastern Conference play-in 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: Celtics vs Wizards – NBA Eastern Conference play-in 2021

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters and NBA Stats Twitter

The Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards open the NBA's first-ever play-in tournament

After a long, difficult, and unique regular season, the NBA is finally kicking off its first-ever play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth seeds in the Western and Eastern Conference playoffs.

But while most teams are more than ready to solidify their spot in the postseason, one may just plead for some break time if they can get it: the Boston Celtics.

After another successful run last season where they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, Brad Stevens’ boys tripped on multiple roadblocks this year as they limped to a middling 36-36 record.

Aside from getting significantly worse across most defensive metrics, Boston also has to endure the untimely loss for first-time All-Star Jaylen Brown, who is now out for the season due to a torn left wrist ligament.

On top of all their woes, the Celtics now face the worst possible opponent in the East play-in bracket, the red-hot Washington Wizards.

Once languishing in 13th place in the East with a 17-32 record, the NBA’s new all-time triple-double king Russell Westbrook ignited a late-season rally as the Wizards won 17 of their last 23 games to skyrocket to the eighth spot.

Although Westbrook’s superstar teammate Bradley Beal is also dealing with a variety of injuries, he can at least suit up and play near his usual standards, and the same cannot be said for Brown.

If the Celtics want to avoid playing for the eighth seed in the second and final play-in game, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and stand-in starter Evan Fournier will have to step up big time this Tuesday, May 18. (Wednesday, May 19)

Will the Wizards continue their hot streak straight to an outright playoff appearance, or will the Celtics get back on track just in the nick of time?