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Rondo, Celtics Trying To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

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Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Playoffs? Playoffs?!?

The Boston Celtics sit at 16-33 heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, 5 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But given the overall lack of talent in the East (currently three teams with a record of .500 or below would make the playoffs in the East), some of the Celtics players still have the postseason on their minds.

That includes point guard Rajon Rondo.

“We have an easy month as far as scheduling wise,” Rondo said of Boston’s February slate, according to ESPNBoston.com. “I think we only play 11 games this month of February. A lot of winnable games, so I don’t think we could use the excuse of beating ourselves anymore. I think we need to come out and execute and try to get some wins. We’re not too far out of the playoffs. Keep hope alive.”

C’s forward Gerald Wallace took things a step further, borrowing a phrase made famous by Kevin Garnett following Boston’s 2008 NBA Championship.

“Anything is possible in the Eastern Conference. You just have to stay on stride,” Wallace told reporters at the team’s practice facilities on Tuesday. “It’s not like the Western Conference where you lose two or three in a row and you’re out of it. We can get hot, win five or six games, and turn things around. Anything is possible in the East; we just have to keep on getting better and keep winning.”

Anything is certainly possible, but the comments by Rondo and Wallace bring back memories of Jim Mora’s famous “Playoffs?!?” rant in 2001. There’s a better chance Boston doesn’t see another inch of snow this winter than the Celtics have at making the playoffs.

The C’s schedule does hit an easy patch ahead of the All-Star Break, with games against fellow cellar-dwellers Philadelphia, Sacramento and Milwaukee, but there is also a pair of Western Conference playoff teams in Dallas and San Antonio coming to Boston, and a four-game West Coast swing immediately after the break.

In other words, this playoff chatter shouldn’t last too much longer.

Read: Celtics vs. 76ers Preview

The Celtics haven’t won back-to-back games since mid-December, and a 2-15 January should have knocked any realistic hopes of a playoff berth into dreams about the lottery (and it has for many fans). But it’s still admirable to hear players talking about turning the rebuilding Celtics around in the present, rather than holding off their hope for the future.

Head coach Brad Stevens knows that playing basketball in late April and early May is very unlikely, but he’s focused on making his team better every time they step onto the court.

“I don’t talk about it a whole lot. I’m so day-to-day that I don’t really look at that from a big standpoint,” he said of the postseason. “The bigger goals are things to shoot for, and they can motivate you, but I’m looking at my improvement from a day-to-day standpoint.”

Celtics At 7: Big Week Ahead For “Tankapolooza”

“Obviously you want to be in the playoffs and win a championship. Everyone in the league wants to win a championship. But the most important thing for me, right now and where we are, is to play better today, get better tomorrow and let the chips fall as they may,” said Stevens.

MORE SPORTS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON

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