|Against all odds, the Celtics are one the brink of a playoff berth (MassLive)|
In order to hold onto the 8th seed, however, the Celtics have to close out the year strong. They currently hold a one game lead over the Indiana Pacers, who just got Paul George back from the nasty leg injury he suffered last August. There is no margin for error.
Boston's schedule isn't exactly a cakewalk, either. They play the Pistons in Detroit tomorrow, then the Cavs in another road game Friday. They return home to face Cleveland again on Sunday, play their final home game versus the Raptors Tuesday, then fly out to Milwaukee to wrap up their season against the Bucks.
That's five games in eight days against some pretty good teams, not to mention thousands of miles of travel. The Pistons are one loss away from being eliminated, but they're not dead yet so you can bet they'll put up a fight tomorrow. The Cavs are settled in as the number two seed, so they don't have much to play for, but they're still a much better basketball team than the Celtics what with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and co. Cleveland's also red-hot, having won eight of their last ten games. The best Boston could hope to do would be to top Detroit, then earn a split with Cleveland.
The Raptors are still vying with the Bulls for the third seed/trying to avoid letting the Wizards knock them out of the fourth seed, but at least the Celtics will have home court advantage for that one. Then it's on to Milwaukee, which could be a must-win for Boston depending on how the next week plays out. Let's hope it isn't, because winning the second game of a back-to-back on the road after flying 1,000 miles is going to be damn-near impossible. The Bucks will have probably locked up their own playoff berth by then, but if not then that game is going to be a knockdown, dragged out fight to the death.
If Boston can go 2-3 over the next week, then that should be good enough to put them in the playoffs. because even with George back, the Pacers probably aren't going to win four out of five. The easiest way for the Celtics to do that is to beat Detroit tomorrow night and steal Sunday's game from the Cavs, as Cleveland could be resting regulars on the road. If not, they might have to wait until the season finale to clinch, which hopefully doesn't happen. Boston's been on such a tear recently--19-12 since February 2nd--that I don't think it will.
The Celtics are so close to making the playoffs that I can taste it. Now they just need to finish the job.