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Knicks Stars Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony
Even with a lockout-shortened 66 game season, Boston still faces a significant challenge with its aging roster. The team has 19 back-to-back games in just five months, and they spend almost the entire month of March on the road.
The once easily-dominated Atlantic Division is now one of the more competitive in the league thanks to trade additions in New Jersey Nets and New York. The Philadelphia 76ers are still an extremely talented team, but the Toronto Raptors will be one of the league's worst. Boston will face the Knicks and Raptors four times each, and the Nets and Raptors three times apiece.
The Celtics have 26 games against 10 the league's best teams. They face conference opponents Chicago, Miami, New York, Orlando and Atlanta 18 times, and Western foes San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Portland and the Lakers a total of eight times.
Boston has 17 games against what can be considered the bottom five teams in the East: Cleveland, Washington, Toronto, Detroit and Indiana.
Against the West's worst, they have only five games. Included in the list are Golden State, Minnesota, Utah, Denver and Sacramento. With 22 games against the worst ten teams in the league, the Celtics are forced to play two-thirds of their schedule against potential contenders.
As important as a hot start is to every NBA team, the final two months of Boston's season will determine their playoff outlook. March features 17 games in just 30 days, 11 of which are on the road. Even worse, the stretch includes a five-game West Coast trip that will be played in just seven days.
The final month of the season includes 15 games, 14 of which against teams from the East. The Eastern Conference playoff seeding will likely be determined in that final few games, especially due to the shortened season, so every game is equally important.
The 2010-2011 Celtics finished 56-26, equating to a .683 winning percentage. Translate that to a 66-game season, and Boston's record is 47-19. There are a lot of factors that alter that prediction, but the Celts will have to win 40-48 games to finish in the conference's top four.