Tough matchups loom; C's in danger of falling behind the pack

The Spurs and Thunder are a combined 16-6. 
Over the next three days Boston will host a pair of 8-3 Western Conference powers, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.  Last season the Spurs posted a league best 50-16 (tied with Chicago) regular season record, while the Thunder went 47-19 and then reached the NBA Finals.  There's a decent chance the 6-5 Celtics could wake up Saturday morning in the midst of a 3 game losing streak, and with a sub .500 record.

Even though we're just 11 games into the season, the standings are starting to become somewhat relevant.  This is no longer the same old Atlantic Division that the C's have become accustomed to winning with ease (Boston took the division by 25 games in '08, 21 in '09, 10 in 2010, 14 in 2011, and 3 in last year's lockout shortened season).  Currently the men in green sit in 4th place, behind a trio of teams (New York, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia) that all have eyes on taking the division title themselves.

While it's clearly too early in the year to talk about "must win" games, a pair of losses around the holiday would put Boston in a hole they'd rather not be forced to dig out of.  The Spurs have fallen twice to the Clippers and once to the Knicks.  The Thunder have dropped games to San Antonio, the Hawks, and the Grizzlies (the #1 team in ESPN's power rankings).  Neither team has a bad loss on their schedule.

I'm hoping that two days off, a return to the Garden, and the bitter taste left over from an ugly loss in Detroit should all help contribute to a Celtics victory over San Antonio.  If not, their backs will really be up against the wall when the Thunder come to down.  But if we can take anything from last year's Boston squad, that's when they perform best.

Follow Mark on twitter @LucidSportsFan