Celtics Are Comfortable, But Not Bulletproof in Eastern Conference Playoff Picture


Paul Pierce, Leandro Barbosa, Antawn JamisonAlthough it wasn’t long ago that Boston’s chances of returning to the Eastern Conference playoff picture were in jeopardy, the Celtics have made every effort to establish themselves as a contender one last time. Now they’ll look to justify their rising NBA odds with some solid play down the stretch.

With a post-All-Star Weekend West Coast swing putting extra pressure on the veterans from Beantown, fans and oddsmakers looking for a good indicator of just how far Boston might go this postseason need to look no further than the NBA futures.

With 28-1 odds of winning the NBA championship, the Celtics aren’t exactly guaranteed playoff success, but they’ve been around long enough to know how to get things done. It would be foolish of the betting community to write them off at any point in the season’s final two months.

They may lack Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, who are both out with season-ending injuries, but that’s been all the incentive they’ve needed to raise their game. In fact, since those two went down, the veteran squad — led primarily by the iconic duo of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — has improved Boston’s stock.

It’s those two who have taken the fringe playoff Celtics and turned them into a No. 7 seed. In addition to currently sitting comfortably in the bottom portion of the bracket, Boston could still climb higher. Don’t expect them to knock off the New York Knicks for the top spot in the Atlantic Division anytime soon, but they’re just a handful of games from the fourth-best record in the conference.

Alternatively, however, any slip up could be costly for the C’s. Their February success may have given them a buffer against emerging East threats, but they’re still liable to fall out of the picture if they’re not careful — that’s what makes betting on the NBA at this time in the season so complicated.

Sure the Celtics have looked strong since the New Year, but a significant win streak from the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers or Detroit Pistons could have them knocking on the postseason door and anxious to sneak in.

With their time on the road out west coming to an end, tune in for the rest of the Celtics’ season as they look to make one final push for a championship before age catches up to them.

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