Breaking down most important Celtics games after All-Star break
The Boston Celtics started to hit their stride entering the NBA All-Star break with 12 wins in their last 15 games.
Boston's schedule in the last half of the season, however, is pretty tough. Tankathon rates the Celtics' remaining schedule as the sixth-hardest in the league, with matchups against all of the Eastern Conference's top contenders on the horizon.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the five most important games left on the Celtics' regular-season schedule.
Feb. 21 at Milwaukee Bucks
Boston's first game after the All-Star break is against the Eastern Conference's first-place team in the Milwaukee Bucks. These teams split a pair of games in Boston and Thursday's meeting is the last one in the season series. The winner will have the tiebreaker advantage if these teams are tied in the final regular-season standings. The C's are 6.5 games behind the Bucks for the top spot.
Feb. 26 at Toronto Raptors
The final regular season meeting between these Atlantic Division teams is a critical one. The Celtics lead the season series 2-1 after a pair of thrilling wins at TD Garden thanks to the brilliance of Kyrie Irving. A third victory would give Boston the tiebreaker edge in conference seeding and the division if it has the same record as Toronto to end the season. The Raptors are 5.5 games ahead of the C's for the division lead. That's a lot of games to make up, so in the likely event the Celtics wouldn't have homecourt advantage in a playoff series against the Raptors, it would benefit Boston to prove it can win in Toronto. The Celtics have lost eight of their last nine games in Toronto, with their last victory coming April 4, 2015.
March 5 at Golden State Warriors
A potential NBA Finals preview heads to Oakland for the final regular season meeting between these teams. The Warriors escaped with a close win at TD Garden in January. The Celtics, to their credit, have played well in Golden State in recent seasons. Boston has won two of its last three games at Oracle Arena. The Celtics and Warriors tend to play very competitive and exciting games, so fans should be in for a treat on this night.
March 9 at Los Angeles Lakers
You won't find any matchup better than Lakers vs. Celtics, especially when former teammates LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are on the court. James and the Lakers won in Boston on a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater earlier this month, and the C's will be out for revenge at Staples Center in March. This game also is the final time the Celtics' and Lakers' young cores will go head-to-head before the summer, when many of those players, including Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma, could be offered in trade talks involving New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis.
March 29 at Pacers, April 5 vs. Pacers
The Indiana Pacers have not slowed down since losing their best player, point guard Victor Oladipo, to a season-ending injury in January. The Pacers are 38-20 at the All-Star break and sit one game ahead of the Celtics for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. These last two regular-season meetings could have major tiebreaker implications. Only one game separates the Pacers, Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in the standings, and one of these teams will finish with the No. 5 seed and not have homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. The season series between the C's and Pacers is even at a game apiece. Each team has won on its home floor.