Starting 5: Key games for Celtics in playoff race
5. at Philadelphia, Sunday March 20
The schedule is full of playoff-caliber foes for the Celtics . . . and then there’s the Sixers who are no longer in full-blown Tank-a-palooza to now just being a really bad team.
And for good teams with deep playoff push aspirations, these are the games you absolutely have to win.
A loss to the Sixers, a mainstay among the NBA’s stinkers, would be a huge blow that could come back and haunt Boston if they fail to get the No. 3 spot in the East by one game.
Blowing out the Sixers or beating them at the buzzer, it really doesn’t matter.
Winning by any means necessary is the goal.
4. Oklahoma City, tonight
Both the Celtics and Thunder are fighting to be a top-three seed in their respective conferences, so the importance of this matchup is huge for both teams. But this game will have a little extra something courtesy of the last time they played when the Celtics won 100-85.
In that game, Marcus Smart delivered a big-time performance with a team-high 26 points, eight rebounds and three assists. It was a business-as-usual night for Russell Westbrook (27 points, four rebounds and five assists) who didn’t take too kindly to being asked afterwards about Smart and the comparisons between the two.
“Don’t get it twisted,” Westbrook said at the time.
Yeah. This ought to be a fun one, for sure.
3. Charlotte, April 11
The Hornets are one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now, skyrocketing their way up the Eastern Conference standings. It’s not that big a stretch to think that by the time these two play, it could easily have playoff position implications for both teams.
Former UConn star Kemba Walker has been on a wicked tear scoring the ball which has been at the heart of Charlotte’s resurgence.
Boston will have their hands full against a Charlotte team that’s playing with a great deal of confidence which they have turned up at just the right time.
2. Toronto, March 18
Boston will continue to be looking up to the Raptors in the conference standings, but a win on the 18th could provide a nice boost of confidence going into their final regular season matchup at the TD Garden on March 23.
For the Celtics to get to the Eastern Conference finals, there’s a chance the path they’ll have to cross will include getting past the Raptors. Beating them on the 18th with another shot less than a week later at home, could provide a mental edge for the Celtics even if Toronto finishes with the better record.
1. Miami, April 13
Boston and Miami are currently tied for third in the East with a 39-28 record. There’s a lot of games left to be played before they meet, but would anyone be surprised if that April 13 matchup decides who will be the third (or fourth) seed in the East?
The Celtics have to feel good about its chances when you consider how they have played of late at home. But the Heat have shown all season that they are not to be taken for granted. Dwayne Wade is still one of the game’s best players, when healthy. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic have become a tough-to-cover, 1-2 punch for many teams.
This has been an exciting season for Celtics fans, and having this as the final home game?