Boston Celtics Spying Playoffs as Season Winds Down


In what many outside of Boston considered to be a pipe dream at the start of the season, the Boston Celtics find themselves in the middle of a playoff hunt.

That’s right. Playoffs. The word that many figured might not be thrown around concerning the Boston Celtics for at least another year or two.

Thirteen games remain for the Celtics to hopefully secure one of the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Currently, the Celtics sit 1/2 game behind Charlotte for the eighth seed in the playoffs.

The Celtics (30-39) were tied for the seventh seed only a week ago following a five-game winning streak. Losing three games in a row could have not come at a worse time, but in a bit of luck some of the other teams around them have been losing as well, keeping the Celtics hopes alive.

The return of Isaiah Thomas would certainly help. Since his arrival in Boston, Thomas is averaging 21.4 points per game in just over 27 minutes per game and has been a consistent spark plug off the bench for the Celtics.

Trouble is, Thomas has missed the last seven games with a bruised lower back and will miss tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets as well.

In addition to Thomas, Avery Bradley missed a few games in early March and Kelly Olynyk is still trying to find consistency since his return to the lineup from an ankle injury.

Relying on Bradley, Olynyk, Evan Turner, and Brandon Bass, plus the emergence of Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller, and Marcus Smart, have certainly kept the Celtics hanging around. Turner has averaged 11.4 ppg in the month of March, up nearly 2 points from his season average.

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Of the 13 remaining games, the Celtics play five teams with winning records. These include two games each against Cleveland and Toronto.

Four of their last 13 games are against teams they are fighting with for those last two spots, providing perfect opportunity to help themselves.

A quick look at the four other teams fighting for those last two spots:

Miami Heat (32-37, currently in 7th)

Without Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat were expected to fall out of playoff contention. Though their play at times can be baffling, the Heat still have a little juice in their legs and are even only 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the 6th seed in the East.

The Heat are 6-4 in their last ten games, including a win over the Cavs, and might have the easiest schedule remaining between the five teams. They play five teams among their last 13 games that currently have a winning record and are 2-1 against the Celtics this year. The Celtics get a chance to even the series when they host the Heat on  3/25.

Charlotte Hornets (30-38, currently in 8th)

The Hornets are 1/2 game ahead of the Celtics for the final playoff spot in the East.

Charlotte might have the more difficult road to the playoffs, as they have seven games against teams with winning records over the next three weeks. This includes tilts with Eastern Conference leaders the Hawks and Raptors, both of whom they play twice.

Charlotte is also 2-1 against the Celtics this year. The two teams play March 3oth in Charlotte.

Indiana Pacers (30-39, tied with Boston)

The Pacers have plummeted even further than the Boston Celtics as of late. After playing inspiring ball coming out of the All-Star break and putting together a five-game winning streak at the start of March, the Pacers have lost five in a row and are in danger of watching their season slip away from them.

They have 13 remaining games and play six teams with a winning record, four of which are from the Western Conference. Not a good sign for a team looking to sneak into the playoffs.

The Pacers are 1-2 against the Celtics this year. The two teams meet up on April 1st at the TD Garden in Boston.

Brooklyn Nets (29-39)

A few weeks ago, the Nets looked like they were ready to call it a season. After winning four of their last five,though,  they have found themselves once again in the thick of the playoff hunt.

They may find their path ahead difficult, as they play seven of their last 14 games against teams with winning records.

The Celtics have taken two of three from the Nets this year. Monday’s match-up might go a long way in helping shape the playoff race even more.

The Celtics will look to win the season series by regaining their shooting touch. Over the last two games, the Celtics have shot only 37.8% and have struggled behind the arc as well.

If the Celtics keep playing the type of defense they have over the last month, find their shooting touch, and get Thomas healthy, there is a strong chance the Celtics reach the playoffs. That’s a lot of “ifs” but if there is one thing that is certain about this year’s edition of the Celtics is that they are a resilient bunch.

Resiliency added with toughness and heart (plus a dash of Thomas) will lead to a playoff berth. Playoffs? You betcha. Moving closer to reality and further away from a pipe dream, one game at a time.