The Eastern Conference Playoff race is completely clogged in the middle. The Celtics find themselves in 5th place currently but by tomorrow night it could be 3rd or it could be 6th. The C’s have managed to win their past two contests beating the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic. I get this isn’t exactly anything to jump for joy about but after the 4 game slide with no Jae Crowder it has given the team a chance to take a breath. With the exception of games against the Lakers, Suns and Pelicans the C’s don’t have anything coming easy in their last 11 games of the season.
Tomorrow nights match up against the Toronto Raptors is what is going to set the tone for the rest of the regular season. The C’s have not performed well against the Raptors so far this season losing the past 2 times they’ve faced. Crowder is still reeling from injury and is unlikely to be available till April. Brad Stevens and the boys are going to need to create some momentum to keep them from falling any lower in the standings.
Out of the 4 teams in the 3rd place clog I think the easiest first round opponent would be the Charlotte Hornets. Kemba Walker is a great shooter and they have lead an impressive season ranking 9th in points allowed. They have recently beaten both Miami and the San Antonio Spurs. It would not be an easy series but I do believe they would be the easiest road for the Boston Celtics. The Hornets aren’t a playoff tested team and they don’t have a big presence in the paint. The Celtics could definitely push them around and win 4 games to close them out. Another reason I like the Celtics is the Hornets lack of late game composure. I think back to December 12th in a game where it came down to a missed buzzer beater between the two teams. The Hornets screwed up trying to foul Isaiah Thomas and lost 7 seconds off the clock which proved fatal.
Both Atlanta and Miami are scary opponents. The scariest being Miami. They have some big boys on the interior and could push the Celtics off the block on every possession. Add in clutch playoff contenders like Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade and things could get ugly real quick. Atlanta is scary in a consolation sort of way. I think it would be a great series but if the Celtics play smart and win at home they could definitely take the series.
The good thing is many of these games will come down to coaching and everyone in Boston should have the utmost faith in Brad Stevens. Tomorrow night at the TD Garden is going to be a great identifier as to where the C’s are and where they will end up come playoff time.