WALTHAM – Playoffs?
As wild as it sounds, the Celtics, less-than-proud owners of the fourth-worst record in the NBA, still have postseason-in-the-sky dreams, even during a campaign when most of their fans have accepted that management has its eyes set on a lottery pick.
“The East schedule isn’t that crazy, so a couple of games where we can string some wins together, you never know,” point guard Rajon Rondo said after practice Tuesday.
While the development of young players and the collection of assets to help speed along the rebuilding process are more realistic goals, the Celtics are also well aware that, even in the midst of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, reaching the playoffs isn’t as outlandish a possibility as it might seem.
“Anything is possible in the Eastern Conference,” said forward Gerald Wallace.
Yes, in such a horrifically bad conference, no team is never quite out of it, no matter how hard it tries. Miami and Indiana are secure atop the league, but it’s basically a mess from there, with no other team above .600 and 10 of the conference’s 15 teams below .500.
So, for all their struggles, such as losing 16 of their last 19 games, the Celtics, as of Tuesday, were 5 games back of the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
“It’s not like the Western Conference where if you lose two, three games in a row, you’re pretty much out of it,” Wallace continued. “We can get hot, win five or six games, and it can turn things around in the Eastern Conference.”
The 16-33 Celtics have a somewhat relaxed schedule in February, with just 10 more games – and four of them against teams with winning records.
The Celtics will play one of their more winnable games Wednesday, against the 15-34 Philadelphia 76ers on the road.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens recently said that it was “pretty ridiculous” that his team was still mathematically in the playoff hunt, despite its record.
“It’s a pretty unique year and everybody realizes that,” he added.
After practice Tuesday, Stevens, whose sole focus rarely extends beyond the next play in any game, again touched on the subject of playoffs, but he noted that he hasn’t referenced the postseason much with his players.
“Obviously, you want to be in the playoffs; obviously, you want to win the championship,” he said. “Everybody in the league wants to win the championship. The most important thing for me right now, and where we are, is to get better today and play better tomorrow and then let the chips fall where they may.”