The bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture has been a volatile mess all season long, but the Boston Celtics aren't letting that stop their quest to pack the TD Garden should they ultimately nab the No. 8 seed.
Should the Celtics experience a slip-up over their final five games and fall out of the postseason, fans will be able to score refunds with no harm done to their checking accounts.
But given how Boston has played since the start of March, it's no surprise that the team is exuding confidence heading into the final week of the season.
In fact, the Cleveland Cavaliers (13 wins) are the only team with more victories during that span than head coach Brad Stevens' Celtics.
However, the road ahead isn't going to do Boston any favors.
After three days off following a 117-116 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics will square off against the Detroit Pistons and enter into a home-and-home set with the Cavaliers before closing things out with a home tilt against the Raptors and a road duel versus the Milwaukee Bucks.
"We need these games," Celtics rookie Marcus Smart said, according to Celtics.com's Peter Stringer. "When you’ve got a goal you’re trying to reach like that, it kind of forces you to band together. That’s what we’ve been doing in this locker room."
Entering that crucial stretch, Boston owns a mere one-game lead over the ninth-seeded Indiana Pacers, which recently received a major boost in the form of Paul George's return following a leg fracture.
|Race For 8th (As of April 6)|
|6. Milwaukee Bucks||38-39||19.5||L1|
|7. Brooklyn Nets||36-41||21.5||W1|
|8. Boston Celtics||35-42||22.5||W1|
|9. Indiana Pacers||34-43||23.5||W2|
|10. Miami Heat||34-43||23.5||L4|
|11. Charlotte Hornets||33-43||24.0||W1|
For a team that ranks 19th overall in efficiency differential (minus-1.3 points per 100 possessions), it's pretty remarkable that Stevens has been able to summon such a strong late-season effort from his squad.
"The Celtics don’t have any players who are close to making an All-Star Game anytime soon, and their frontcourt rotation is a general horror show," Bleacher Report's Michael Pina wrote. "But they control what they can, limiting turnovers, getting back on defense and consistently executing their game plan on a nightly basis."
If Boston can sustain its current pace, a potentially entertaining first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks awaits. While the Celtics would be severely outmatched from a pure talent standpoint, they did sandwich a 14-point loss January 14 with a one-point win prior to the All-Star break and a four-point loss back in December.
But to make the dream of that first-round clash a reality, the Celtics first need to take care of business over the next nine days in order to snap a one-year postseason drought and appease their committed ticket holders.