Boston Celtics: Do They Need Top Seed in East to Reach NBA Finals This Season?

Stephen PattersonCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2011

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 24:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics reacts as his team faces the Denver Nuggets during NBA action at the Pepsi Center on February 24, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The Boston Celtics took a massive hit in their quest for a league-record 18th NBA title this season when they traded away Kendrick Perkins. However, all hope for the Celtics might not be lost.

While the path will be much tougher this season without Perkins, Boston can still make it through the Eastern Conference gauntlet in the playoffs if they hold home-court advantage.

Boston (25-5) trails only the Chicago Bulls (26-4) for best home record in the East, meaning that trend will likely hold true in the postseason as well.

The Celtics will definitely need to fill in their roster over the next few weeks with players that are receiving buyouts, but with the right mix of players, as well as home-court advantage, Boston still has a legitimate chance of coming out of the East.

With the top four teams only separated by six games, however, locking up home-court advantage needs to become the Celtic's number one priority for the remainder of the regular season.

If Chicago or the Miami Heat are able to surpass Boston and lock up a higher seed going into the playoffs, the Celtics are going to have to fight a lot harder to win a seven-game series without Perkins being there as they are accustomed.

While some of you might still be laughing at the notion of the Heat beating the Celtics in a best of seven series after they have lost all three previous meetings this season, keep in mind that the Celtics were undefeated in postseason series when they had Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Perkins all healthy; they didn't fare too well when one of them was missing.

With Perkins no longer on the roster and the team having to rely more on Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq, I wouldn't be stunned if any of the Eastern powerhouses stole a series from Boston unless the Celtics had home-court in the series.

There are also two big wild cards in all of this. Well, actually four: the O'Neal knees.

If both J.O. and Shaq fail to remain healthy for the entirety of the postseason, I think Boston will have major issues on their hands, regardless of what floor they are playing on.

However, with everyone healthy and assuming Jeff Green fits in well with the team, I think Boston will be making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals this season.

If they have home-court advantage in the conference finals, don't be surprised to see the "Big Three" starring in their third Finals appearance in the four seasons they've been together.