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Boston Celtics: Tough Schedule Makes Eastern Conference Top Seed Impossible?

BOSTON - MAY 28:  (L-R) Paul Pierce #34, Ray Allen #20, Kevin Garnett #5 and Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics look on against the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 28, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  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 Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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J.B. BirdContributor IIIMarch 16, 2011

With yesterday's win over the Washington Wizards, the Chicago Bulls have now taken sole possession of the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

What does this mean for the title chances of the Boston Celtics?

Last season the Boston Celtics surprised many by battling their way to the NBA Finals, despite finishing the season seeded only forth in the Eastern Conference.

This season, however, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers decided not to take such a risk. The Celtics were going after the number one seed in a big way.Although Rivers has subsequently changed his tune, claiming that the number one seeding is no longer a primary goal for the Celtics, it will make their journey back to championship glory a lot more difficult if they cede the top ranking in the East to the Chicago Bulls.

However, the battle to regain the top seeding in the east will be tough - particularly because of the tough schedule of games remaining for the Celtics.

The Celtics have 17 games left this season. Of these, only seven are in Boston and most are against teams they would have likely defeated anyway (e.g. Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards).

In particular, a string of dangerous April away games - including matches against the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat—could put a dent in the Celtics' wins column. A four game away tour in late March-early April will also test the endurance of the aging Celtics.

Celtics' remaining games

Wednesday, March 16   Indiana Pacers
Friday, March 18           @ Houston Rockets
Saturday, March 19       @ New Orleans Hornets    
Monday, March 21        @ New York Knicks
Wednesday, March 23   Memphis Grizzlies
Friday, March 25           Charlotte Bobcats
Sunday, March 27         @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Monday, March 28        @ Indiana Pacers
Thursday, March 31      @ San Antonio Spurs
Friday, April 1              @ Atlanta Hawks
Sunday, April 3            Detroit Pistons
Tuesday, April 5           Philadelphia 76ers
Thursday, April 7          @ Chicago Bulls    
Friday, April 8              Washington Wizards
Sunday, April 10          @ Miami Heat  
Monday, April 11         @ Washington Wizards
Wednesday, April 13    New York Knicks


The Chicago Bulls meanwhile have a much easier schedule. For a start they a nice three game home stretch against the Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns and Celtics. The Celtics have no such luxury, with only two back-to-back home games (Memphis Grizzlies-Charlotte Bobcats and then Detroit Pistons-Philadelphia 76ers). The Bulls' April is also a lot less challenging than the Celtics—with only Boston and Orlando Magic proving to be real competition.

Chicago Bulls' remaining games

March

Thu 17    @ New Jersey        
Fri 18     @ Indiana   
Mon 21   vs Sacramento
Tue 22   @ Atlanta   
Fri 25     vs Memphis
Sat 26    @ Milwaukee   
Mon 28   vs Philadelphia
Wed 30  @ Minnesota   

April    

Fri 01      @ Detroit   
Sat 02     vs Toronto
Tue 05     vs Phoenix
Thu 07     vs Boston
Fri 08       @ Cleveland  
Sun 10     @ Orlando   
Tue 12     @ New York  
Wed 13    vs New Jersey

So, does this mean that it will be impossible for the Celtics to regain the top seed in the Eastern Conference before the playoffs? No. But it does make it a lot more difficult.

Perhaps the more critical question though is, "what impact does this have on their title chances?". As seen last year, the Celtics have shown that they don't need home court advantage to win playoff series. However, the last thing a team that aspires to win it all needs is to be exhausted from the regular season just as the playoffs begin. The risk remains that their tough end of season schedule could tire out an already fatigued team.

Although not at their physical best, the Celtics have always been a team with great heart. Their fans can only hope that this is enough to overcome the upcoming challenges of the regular and post seasons.

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