How should the Celtics approach another Miami or Philadelphia matchup in the 2024 playoffs?

Boston Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid. Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Celtics legend Cedric Maxwell has one piece of advice for the Celtics as they roll comfortably into the postseason: “Get a dog if you’re afraid.”

The two-time NBA champ gave his vote of confidence to the 64-18 team Monday on NBC Sports Boston, saying he expects the Celtics to continue their dominant performance down the stretch.

“This is a defensive team, they get things done on both sides of the floor,” Maxwell said. “When I look at this team in totality, this team can really run the table. They just have a lot of great pieces — in veterans and in younger players.”

Sure, Boston coasted through April (6-2), something Maxwell said he didn’t love. However, the Celtics managed to pull off impressive wins earlier in the season against two of their potential first round opponents: the Heat and 76ers.

“The Celtics have played Philadelphia extremely well this year. Over the last couple of years, they’ve dominated Philadelphia. This team does not have any fear when I think about looking at them,” Maxwell said. “I like the Celtics’ chances yet again.”

Last year the Celtics met the Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, playing out the entire series before sending Philly home in Game 7. This year, however, Boston’s addition of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday change the playoff picture.

Maxwell points out that Porzingis’s versatility — and his ability to draw defenders like Joel Embiid out away from the basket — will prove consequential in the postseason. The Celtics’ 7-foot-2 big man averaged 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2 assists per game on the season, all while shooting 51.6 percent.

And while it was ultimately the Heat who ended Boston’s bid for Banner 18 in 2023, Maxwell says the Celtics shouldn’t fear them this season either. Rather, when it comes to another Celtics-Heat series, he thinks they should “get it over with.”

“That boogey-man that everyone’s talking about, meet them head on,” Maxwell said.

Who the Celtics will take on first in the 2024 NBA playoffs will be decided on by Friday night. As the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics have this week — the play-in tournament — off.

The Heat (No. 8) and the 76ers (No. 7) will face off Wednesday night, with the winner going on to face No. 2 seed New York in Round 1 of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the loser of the Heat-76ers matchup will host the Hawks-Bulls winner Friday with the opportunity to meet the Celtics.

Faith Pinnow

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