Boston Celtics

Should Celtics fear Sixers or Heat in first round of NBA playoffs?

'Get a dog if you're afraid.'

NBC Universal, Inc.

There's a very high likelihood the Boston Celtics face a perennial Eastern Conference contender in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs.

As the East's No. 1 seed, the Celtics will draw the No. 8 seed, which will the winner of the NBA play-in tournament "loser's bracket" game. The No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers will host the No. 8 Miami Heat on Wednesday night with the winner securing the No. 7 seed, and the loser of that game will play the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup (Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks) for the right to earn the No. 8 seed.

The Sixers and Heat both would be favored in a matchup against the Bulls or Hawks (especially at home), so the loser of Sixers-Heat on Tuesday would be Boston's most likely opponent.

Given Philly and Miami's playoff pedigrees, should the Celtics or their fans be concerned about this potentially tricky first-round matchup? Former Celtics forward and current C's radio analyst Cedric Maxwell shared a definitive take Monday on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition.

"Get a dog if you're afraid," Maxwell said. "This (Celtics) team is a great team, and the way they're playing right now constitutes who they are. This is a defensive team. They get things done on both ends of the floor. Yes, they had a huge lead (in the East standings) and then they start coasting a little bit. I didn't really like that. But I tell you what, when I look at this team in totality, this team really can run the table."

While the Sixers took Boston to Game 7 of the East semifinals last year -- and even had a 3-2 series lead before the Celtics rallied to win the series -- they've lost six consecutive playoff series to their East nemesis dating to 1982 and have lost six of their last eight regular-season matchups against Boston.

So, even with reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid back in the mix for the Sixers, Maxwell believes the Celtics would have a clear advantage if Philly is the opponent.

"They've played Philadelphia extremely well this year," Maxwell said of the Celtics. "Over the last couple of years, they've dominated Philadelphia. This team does not have any fear ... and when I look at Kristaps Porzingis, what he brings to the table, he makes a guy like Joe Embiid get out on the floor and have to guard people. So I like the Celtics' chances yet again."

Despite Boston's recent dominance of Philly, Maxwell admitted he'd rather the C's draw the Heat, who dispatched Boston in last year's East Finals as the No. 8 seed and took the Celtics to seven games in the 2022 East Finals.

"Get it over with," Maxwell said of why he'd prefer to play Miami over Philly. "This is the team that you want to play, get it out of the way, that 'boogeyman' that everybody's talking about, meet him head-on."

After a historic 64-18 regular season, the Celtics will have to wait until Friday night -- after the play-in finale -- to learn of their playoff opponent. Game 1 of Boston's first-round series likely will be Sunday afternoon.

Check out the video player above and the YouTube video below for more from Maxwell on the Celtics' playoff chances.

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