Can they even make the playoffs?
Putting aside the big-picture scenarios, the very real issue of whether the Celtics are a playoff team must be addressed. They are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference, but before Sunday’s victory had lost six in a row.
At 21-23, the Celtics are the only team “in” the playoffs right now with a losing record. They’ve shown signs of being able to get it together—a six-game win streak preceded the losing streak— but how well they can rally without Rondo remains to be seen. Rondo's minutes alone are difficult to replace—he was averaging 37.4 minutes a game, by far the most of any Celtic.
A long West Coast trip awaits in February, and games vs. the Lakers, Thunder, Mavs, Grizzlies, and Knicks loom as well. But the Celtics were a question mark for most of last season until they became one of the league’s best teams from March to June. And the C’s have beaten two of the NBA’s best teams this season, the Heat and the Knicks, without Rondo in the lineup.