For the most part, everything is fine and dandy with the Boston Celtics at the moment. The team is 15-6 since Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending ACL injury, they have improved their standing in the Eastern Conference playoff race and guys like Jeff Green and Courtney Lee have been stepping up big time.
That being said, there is always the possibility that something can happen that can derail the Celtics' season. We have already seen numerous things occur that could have put Boston down for the count, but the C's admirably responded each and every time. The question is, would they be able to respond again should another obstacle be thrown in their way?
It's great how well the Celtics have been playing, and provided that nothing extravagant happens over the course of the final stretch, it's hard to envision them starting to slip.
What are some things that could pose a roadblock for a playoff run, though?
1. More overtime games
Boston has already played a franchise-record 11 overtimes this season. The C's have been successful in those extra periods overall, posting a 7-4 record, but they are pretty much the last team that can afford to log all of those extra minutes.
With Doc Rivers doing all he can to preserve the legs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the playoffs, overtimes are essentially his worst enemy. To make matters worse, Boston has played a triple and two double overtimes.
To avoid any more unnecessary burn on Garnett and Pierce, the Celtics need to do a better job of closing games out in regulation. Their recent game against the Atlanta Hawks is a perfect example of this. They had a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, only to allow the Hawks to rally to tie it and send it into OT. Boston would prevail, but they should have finished things off much earlier.
It's pretty simple, really. The less minutes that KG and Pierce play, the more prepared they will be for the rigors of another playoff run.
2. A frontcourt injury
You could just say "another injury," but that would be too easy. To be more specific, a frontcourt injury could absolutely debilitate this C's squad.
With Jared Sullinger already down for the year, the Celtics are thin up front as it is. Garnett, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox are the only true big men on the ballclub. Green can play the 4 in some situations, but he is not a "big."
As awful as Bass has been, if he were to be lost, Boston would be in dire straits. The same goes for the productive Wilcox off the pine.
The C's have tried to fill the void left by Sullinger by signing guys like D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph off the scrap heap, but it's hard to believe that either of those two players will see consistent minutes in the playoffs, Randolph especially.
An injury to any of the guards would be rather significant as well, but any more blows to the frontcourt would destroy any hope the Celtics have at winning anything in the postseason.
3. Continuing to flounder on the road
Boston picked up a huge road win at Indiana on March 6. Since then, they have played two more away games and have lost both of them. The first one to the Oklahoma City Thunder was really no big deal, as that was an expected loss. The second one is what drives you absolutely nuts, as the C's were blown out by the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Celtics have lost at Charlotte twice. The first loss came a day after their triple-overtime thriller against the Denver Nuggets, so that is somewhat excusable. The next one, however, came after a full day of rest. Yes, Pierce got the night off, but Boston should still be able to easily dispose of the Bobcats sans The Truth. Instead, they were demolished by 26.
With the New York Knicks floundering and decimated by injuries, the Atlantic Division is now suddenly ripe for the taking. The C's play half of their remaining 18 games on the road, and six of those nine contests will come against non-playoff teams. The Celtics need to take advantage and win just about all six of those to have a shot at winning the division crown. It would also serve them well to prove they can win away from home heading into the postseason, where you have no choice but to do that.
Boston is currently riding a 10-game home win streak, so if they can just put together some sort of consistency in other teams' buildings, they will be in phenomenal shape.
If they keep dropping these away games, though, they will extinguish any chance they have at a top-three seed and will likely be playing close to .500 basketball when the playoffs arrive.
So guys: Start winning on the road. That 12-20 record away from TD Garden is ugly.