The Boston Celtics are currently on a six game winning streak, looking to make it seven tonight against the Denver Nuggets. More importantly, the Celtics have slowly inched their way up the Eastern Conference standings. Currently, Boston is in seventh, one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks and one game behind the Atlanta Hawks for sixth. A win tonight would get the Celtics within a half game of sixth with two games remaining before the All-Star break.
With the injures Boston has, getting a higher seed is important. Realistically, the Celtics could get the third or fourth seed before the season is over, barring another major injury. Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, and even Indiana can all be beaten and passed in the standings, but the Celtics have to keep playing at the same level they’ve played in the last six games. Can Boston continue playing at the same pace without Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger? That is still an open question, and will be until the end of the season. So far, the veterans haven’t looked worn out, and in fact, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have played less minutes since the win streak began.
Looking ahead to late April and early May, the Celtics must position themselves to not face the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls in the first round. I’m still not a believer in the New York Knicks, who at times, have looked like a paper tiger instead of being a legitimate contender. Boston has had success when it comes to facing New York, and the Celtics surprisingly seem to match up well against the Knicks. The Pacers are another team that I’m not completely sold on, and if Boston plays Indiana in the opening round, it’s possible that the Celtics could get by, just that it would take them six to seven games to do it.
As the season progresses it will be interesting to see if some teams fall in the standings, or a team emerges out of nowhere to become a cinderella story. For the Celtics, getting a four or five seed is a must, and if they can remain relatively healthy with the players they have, it’s possible that Boston can go deep into the playoffs. Of course, this all hinges on whether the veterans get worn out in the latter part of the season, or Boston’s opponents adjust their defenses to stop the up-tempo offense.
With Pierce and KG leading the team, anything is possible. However, the Celtics must add a few more pieces, whether that be through free agency or a small trade. Without a point guard who can command and set up the offense, and a big man who can rebound, Boston will find it difficult to beat the tougher teams in the east like Miami, or Chicago when Derrick Rose returns.
Tonight is Boston’s first real test, facing a team who is healthy, and climbing the Western Conference standings. If the Celtics can win convincingly against a serious contender, then that might be an indication that this team still has magic left and can possibly make one final run at glory.