BOSTON -- Location, location, location.
The Boston Celtics are seemingly where they want to be following their 112-108 win Sunday night over Miami, a victory that put the Celtics (48-26, .649 winning percentage) in a virtual tie with defending NBA champ Cleveland (47-25, .652).
But position means very little without purposeful play, something the Celtics are gradually doing more of than not.
And because of that, they find themselves one strong finish to the season away from going into the playoffs with the top overall record in the East for the first time since 2008 -- the year they brought home Banner 17.
While few anticipate the Celtics will advance to the NBA Finals, they have at least positioned themselves to have a shot at making a good run during the postseason if they can secure home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The last time the top overall top seed in the East failed to make it past the first round was in 2012 when the Chicago Bulls were eliminated by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, a series that was marred by injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah that created a much smoother pathway for the upstart Sixers to move on to the second round where they were defeated by Boston in seven games.
And while the players have tried to downplay the significance of landing the top seed in the East, there’s no question it’s something that they know all too well is within their reach.
Cleveland has a much tougher schedule to close out the season, one that includes a Monday night matchup at San Antonio against a Spurs team that’s fighting for the top spot out West.
The Celtics players have talked often about wanting to be in the best position possible going into the playoffs.
Having the top seed?
That’ll do it.
And while Celtics players were aware of where the team was in relation to Cleveland, being tied for the top spot with the Cavs isn’t something that Boston is getting too giddy about right now.
“We hear it, but that wasn’t our focus [against Miami],” said Marcus Smart. “Our focus was to come in, get another game, keep that momentum going before we start the playoffs.”
Coach Brad Stevens said not a word was spoken in the locker room after Sunday’s win about the team now being in a virtual tie with the Cavs.
“I think -- I talked about this earlier --obviously the guys, because they get . . . most of them. to be honest, because they’re asked so much, some of them obviously have already said they watch it pretty closely,” Stevens said. “But I’ve tried to say, ‘Hey, it’s about playing as well as we can . . . ' ”
That and location, location, location.