Healthy Celtics Set Sights on Overtaking Magic for No. 2 Seed in Eastern Conference

Healthy Celtics Set Sights on Overtaking Magic for No. 2 Seed in Eastern Conference After winning their fourth straight game, the Celtics have every reason to feel confident as March rolls on.

They've won big and small, at home and on the road, and by blowouts and nail-biters. The momentum is starting to swing back in the Celtics' direction as the playoffs draw closer.

At this point, the Eastern Conference playoff picture is beginning to crystallize. There are nine teams fighting for eight playoff spots, but at the top, Cleveland is looking to take the pole position going into the final month.

At the bottom, there's a different story. There's a five-team cluster made up of Milwaukee, Toronto, Miami, Chicago and Charlotte. Four of those teams will hit the road for the first round of the playoffs, while one will go home.

In the middle is where things get really interesting.

The Celtics' win over the Wizards on Sunday night moved them into third place in the East by a half-game margin above Atlanta. The C's still trail Orlando, which topped the Lakers on Sunday, by just 2 1/2 games for the second spot in the conference.

That No. 2 seed means a lot this spring. It means dodging the Cavaliers for the first two rounds of the playoffs, and no one wants any part of LeBron James in the early rounds. It also means home-court advantage to open not just Round 1, but the second series as well.

Basically, it means being pegged as the favorite to take on the Cavs in the East finals. But according to many NBA insiders who think they have this East race figured out, the Celtics have no shot at it based on a few simple reasons.

The Celtics are aging and fatiguing, and for the most part, they've been unable to gain any momentum in these first few months of the calender year. Head to head, they're a combined 1-7 against both Orlando and Atlanta.

But look at these numbers more closely. At first glance, you see a team that's 40-21, noticeably behind the Magic (49-15) in terms of overall wins and losses. But more specifically, you see a team that's 5-6 without Kevin Garnett, 4-5 without Paul Pierce and 0-1 without Ray Allen.

Injuries are going to happen over the course of a long season, and with their aging staff, the Celtics are especially vulnerable. But they're all healthy now, and when this team is fully loaded, it's really dangerous.

With its Big Three intact, the Celtics' record is 31-9. That's good for a .775 winning percentage, which would make them a 64-win team over the course of an 82-win season. It would also make them the best team in the NBA.

We've seen before what the Celtics are capable of accomplishing when healthy. Last time they had their roster intact heading into the playoffs, they won the whole thing.

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