Feb. 24, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers reacts to an officials call during the fourth quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. The Blazers won the game 92-86. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Let March Madness Begin: Boston Celtics Edition

It’s March, and this month will be nothing short of madness. This is by far the most important month of the year for the Boston Celtics, as they try to maintain and possibly climb the standings in the Eastern Conference. They’ll have to face other playoff and championship caliber teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, and the Miami Heat. While these are not all consecutive games on the schedule, this will be the Celtics version of the NCAA tournament. This month won’t be easy, and we’ll get a better understanding of how Boston ranks against other playoff teams.

Not all the games in March consist of upper echelon teams. The Celtics face the Charlotte Bobcats twice, the Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Orleans Hornets. However, these teams aren’t just going to roll over. The Bobcats beat the Celtics in their last meeting, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers are showing signs of life, despite not having a great chance of making the playoffs, and the Toronto Raptors do have a slight chance of squeezing into the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. In comparison to the NCAA tournament those three teams would be the small schools whose odds at making the Final Four are slim, yet they’re is always the potential of an upset.

Unfortunately, the Celtics have a handful of games against powerhouse teams in both conferences. The Oklahoma City Thunder will be at home, and this will be a big test to see how Boston responds to a very hostile and loud crowd. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will no doubt be at the top of their games as they try to prove to the NBA that they are legitimate contenders for the championship. The Celtics then face the Miami Heat a week later, and while Boston has had success against Miami this season, they aren’t a team to mess with. The Heat are currently on a 12 game winning streak heading into March, and since the All-Star break, they’ve elevated their game to the next level as they attempt to win back-to-back NBA titles.

Boston takes on the New York Knicks, not once, but twice. While New York is currently second in the East, those two games hold significant importance. The Celtics are five and a half games behind the Knicks, and to steal two games from them would be huge, especially if New York loses some games this month. Boston has had the upper hand the last few years against New York, but just like the Heat and Thunder, the Knicks are in a position to win a championship, and they’ll look to finish the season on a very strong note heading into the playoffs.

The Celtics also face the Indiana Pacers, who have steamrolled over opponents like the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors. Indiana just got Danny Granger back, and even though he hasn’t contributed much in the games he’s played in, he’ll be a factor in the playoffs. The Pacers are another team that shouldn’t be messed with. They have height, and their depth off the bench is a combination that gives the Miami Heat matchup problems. Their young talent in Paul George, George Hill, and Roy Hibbert are similar to the core group the Thunder possess, but the Pacers play a completely different style of basketball. Just like the Indiana Hoosiers, the Pacers will be a team to watch out for in the playoffs.

In March, Boston takes on a few middle of the road teams whose chances of making it to the Finals are not astronomical, but they could pose a threat to any team mentioned above. The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks come to town, and both are very dangerous teams when they get in a groove. Tonight we’ll get our last look at the Warriors in the regular season this year, which should be a very entertaining game. Stephen Curry comes off of a 54 point performance against the New York Knicks, and will look to do the same against the Celtics. The Atlanta Hawks remain as a mystery team. The Hawks are currently fourth in the standings, but they’ve been known to have a bad week here or there. I’m not completely sold on Atlanta, but if Josh Smith becomes the leader that everyone has expected of him, they could be a cinderella story in this year’s playoffs.

The team that has been catching my eye is the Memphis Grizzlies. The Celtics will be taking  them on in Memphis on March 23rd. They’ve won eight straight and are fourth in the Western Conference. After the trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, many people believed that the chances of them being a contender had faded, but they’ve maintained that status heading into the month of March, and everyone has stepped up for them since Gay’s departure. Going into the playoffs, I’d keep my eye on this team. They’ve made a few splashes in the playoffs before, and if they get on a roll at the right time, they could find themselves in the Western Conference Finals.

Every game this month will be worth watching. The NBA doesn’t have a tournament system like the NCAA, but for the Boston Celtics, each game is important. Boston has to enter games with a do or die attitude. They’re a game and a half ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, and even if the Celtics don’t get a higher seed, they can’t afford to finish in eighth place and face the Miami Heat in the first round. Boston has a chance at getting deep into the playoffs, but they have to set themselves up to play beatable teams like the New York Knicks. This is going to a wild ride, but it wouldn’t be living up to it’s name if March wasn’t filled with madness.

 

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Tags: Boston Celtics Indiana Pacers March Madness Memphis Grizzlies Miami Heat

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