Will the Raptors resurgence and a rough schedule ahead put the Celtics back on the tank train?
Not many W's besides maybe Orlando & the Lakers...
In knocking off Indiana 95-82 last night, the first place Toronto Raptors won their 4th straight game, and lifted their season record to 15-15. The last time an Atlantic Division team was .500 or better was 47 days ago, when the Sixers were 5-5 back on November 15th. In early December when Toronto dealt away Rudy Gay for a handful of seemingly insignificant players, I assumed the Raptors were planning to battle the Bucks, Magic, and Jazz for a top lottery pick.
Man was I wrong. Without Gay Toronto has gone 9-3, with their only losses in regulation coming against the Spurs (twice), and one in OT vs the Bobcats. Over that span they've had victories in both Dallas and Oklahoma City, and now yesterday over the Pacers. The way they're playing at the moment, it looks as if the Raptors could run away and hide with the division title.
At 13-18 the Celtics are just 2.5 games behind Toronto for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. But, they are also just 3 games in front of several teams currently tied for the 4th worst record in the NBA. Three games away from being a leading candidate for one of the "can't miss" prospects in the 2014 draft. Tonight's contest in Chicago alone will be the difference between Boston moving up to 6th place in the East, or falling behind the Bulls and into the lottery.
After hosting the Pelicans on Friday, the Celtics face an absolutely brutal schedule over their next twelve games that begins and ends with the OKC Thunder (8 of 12 on the road, 5 in a row out west, only 3 teams with losing records... take a look at the graphic). It's very possible Boston could go 2-10 over that stretch. If the C's are 16-29 or 15-30 come late January, you'd have to think they'll be in prime position to have a legitimate shot at competing for Wiggins, Parker, Randle, Embiid, Exum, etc.