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BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics are flying high after a big win over the Miami Heat on Sunday, their fifth straight to bring them to 15-5 since the All Star break.
That win gave Boston confidence that they can play with the best in the NBA, but now they need to prove it again, and again, and again on a crucial stretch that kicks off Wednesday night.
April is no joke for the Celtics as they have 11 games over the next 15 nights. The season’s final month includes four back-to-backs, and the dreaded back-to-back-to-back as a result of the lockout shortened season. The Celtics will play eight playoff teams over the stretch.
It all starts Wednesday night as the San Antonio Spurs visit the Garden. Despite their age, the Spurs are 37-17, the fourth best record in the NBA, and are gunning for their ninth straight win.
Read: Celtics-Spurs Preview
That is just how the stretch kicks off. Things don’t get any easier, with a trip to Chicago to face the Eastern Conference leading Bulls on Thursday, followed by another back-to-back Saturday and Sunday in Indiana and at home against the 76ers. Another back-to-back follows with two more playoff teams in the Heat (in Miami) and the Hawks (in Boston) mid next week. Each of those teams could be a potential playoff opponent for Boston in the first round, so these upcoming games will mean that much more.
It’s hard to imagine, but the Celtics’ back-to-back-to-back could be considered a bit of a break during the stretch, with games against the Raptors, Nets and Bobcats, who have a combined 45 wins. All three games come on the road though, and with five games in six nights, it’s hard to imagine the Celtics having much left by the time they get New Jersey, let alone Charlotte.
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And just for good measure, the Celtics have another back-to-back after getting a night off, playing the Knicks in New York and Magic in Boston. In all, the Celtics will end up playing 12 games in 18 nights before getting a three-day break to close the season with Miami and Milwaukee in Boston.
While their opponents overall record during the stretch sits a little above .500, most of that can be put on the abysmal records of the Raptors, Nets and Bobcats. The Celtics will take on every Eastern Conference playoff team over the next three weeks, giving them a good preview of what they are looking at come May.
The Celtics knew this stretch was coming, and Doc Rivers said he would likely sacrifice the standings if it meant he could get his players some rest. Translation: some of these games could be very ugly.
Boston has some momentum after their big win over Miami, but now they have to put it to use against other elite NBA teams. Entering the stretch, they sit 1 ½ games over the 76ers in the Atlantic Division. Philly has a tough stretch of their own, with 10 games in 16 nights which includes their three-in-three, although their opponents are not nearly as difficult as the ones the Celtics have on the docket.
The Celtics have their hands full, but if they want to prove that they really belong with the rest of the top teams in the NBA, they’ll make their noise as the postseason approaches.