Thomas' incredible season - an Eastern Conference-leading 28.9 points per game, a career-high 46.3 shooting percentage - helped lift the Celtics to the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed, but Horford isn't surprised by the 5-foot-9 guard's stellar play. Even as the top seed, Boston is not widely expected to win the Eastern Conference, but should have enough to oust the Bulls. Let that sink in.

The Boston Celtics finished the regular season with a record of 53-29, better than the 51-31 record of the champion Cleveland Cavaliers, and much stronger than the 41-41 Chicago Bulls who squeaked into the last spot in the playoffs.

"For three quarters, it was a ballgame".

High-flying reserve Gerald Green led the Celtics with 18 points, including a pair of thunderous dunks, and Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson scored 16 apiece.

And former Gators coach Billy Donovan has the Oklahoma City Thunder back in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. The only thing to be decided is which team will have home-court advantage.

Indeed, both players are passionate about the teams they play for and the cities they play in, which only adds another element of intensity to this first round matchup between Boston and Chicago that begins with Game 1 on Sunday at the TD Garden.

"It's very special to me". For anybody that I'm guarding.

The Bulls went on a tear to get into this last playoff spot winning 7 of their last 9 games. "Between him and Kyrie (Irving), you take your pick".

"We've come a long way". "And that's just me watching him when I was younger and before I got in the National Basketball Association". They were barely thinking playoffs. Their opening round opponents are the Indiana Pacers and the Cavs are big -1,000 favorites to advance past that series. But, yes, there was some good fortune along the way. In those six games, the Celtics are 2-4, but barely held on to beat the Brooklyn Nets in one of those games.

Now comes the hard part: the Celtics have to make this opportunity count.

Boston cannot only clinch first in the East on Wednesday, but they can also continue building their playoff momentum. A similar fate this spring would be unacceptable. Thomas couldn't have been happier about getting the conference's top seed. There are expectations and a significant degree of pressure to perform.

If you're a Celtics fan, it's hard not to have at least a little sliver of pessimism.

Jimmy Butler doesn't know when, doesn't know where, but he knows it's coming. "My biggest fear with this team is they try to win the easy was, as if they are the 1986 Celtics or the 1985 Lakers, and they're not". If they fail to advance out of the first round, the earth will crumble, the local sports radio hosts will scream, and the season will end with real disappointment.

"Really physical team, great offensive rebounding team with multiple proven playoff players", said Stevens of the Bulls. If not, then we'll do it over and over again 'til somebody is there if I'm beat.