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Can The Celtics Catch The Knicks And Win The Division?

 

With only 20 games remaining to play and five games to make up in the standings, the idea of the Celtics catching the New York Knicks is a daunting proposition for even the most optimistic of Celtic fans out there. Hollinger’s playoff odds currently gives the Celtics a 9.4 percent chance of winning the Atlantic Division crown for the seventh straight season.

However, with the Knicks recent injury woes to Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, combined with a challenging schedule remaining for the team in the Big Apple, I feel like the division question is still worth exploring. If nothing else, that 9.4 percent means there is still a possibility and I’ll let the immortal Lloyd Christmas take things from there.

THE BREAKDOWN

Celtics
20 games remaining (10 home, 10 road)
Games vs. playoff teams: 8
Back-to-backs: 5

That my friends is what you call a favorable slate. The Celtics still have a looming three-game road trip throughout the Western Conference that won’t be easy next week (@ New Orleans, @ Dallas, @ Memphis) but after that, things soften up quite a bit. There are a couple games against tough opponents mixed in (hello Heat, Pacers), but two of those three games come in the last week of the season.

By then, Miami and Indiana could have the top two seeds wrapped up, so the top guns on both rosters may be getting some strategic rest or at the very least, may not be giving 100 percent effort. That will help the Celtics.

With a healthy diet of Minnesota, Charlotte, Toronto, Orlando, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. mixed into the rest of the slate, the Celtics could be looking pretty if they take care of business.

The Celtics are still very capable of losing to all of the teams just listed, but in the rest 20 games, they are winning the games they are supposed to win for the first sustain stretch all season. I don’t see that changing in the next month. Very few back-to-backs also helps as well lessen that possibility.

The other important part of the C’s schedule? Two head-to-head matchups with the Knicks (one home, one road). Goes within saying, the C’s will need to sweep both in order to have any chance, but they are fully capable of doing so against a potentially shorthanded New York squad.

New York Knicks
22 games remaining (9 home, 13 road)
Games against playoff teams: 14
Back-to-backs: 7

Whoa boy, that’s not a fun setup at all. Lots of games on the road, lots against playoff teams and plenty of back-to-backs for an old and injury-plagued team? Yikes. Where’s the panic button?

We’ll find out a lot pretty quickly with this crew as the Knicks start a five-game west coast swing tonight in Golden State. Four of those games are on back-to-backs. The Knicks could go 3-2 on this, but they could just as easily go 0-5 or 1-4.

There are winnable games (Golden State, Utah, Portland) and nearly certain losses (Clippers, Nuggets). All of those winnable games though come against teams in the playoff race that have tough arenas to win in however. I’m not saying the Knicks will come up empty in those, but let’s just say New Yorkers better hope J.R. Smith isn’t partying this week.

It doesn’t get too much easier after this week for Mike Woodson’s crew. April is especially tough with trips to Miami, Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Chicago looming. All things considered, going .500 the rest of the way would be a victory for NY, but even that might be asking too much when you factor in the back-to-backs.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR BOSTON TO CATCH THE KNICKS?

So let’s give the Knicks the benefit of the doubt here and say they find a way to go 11-11 (no sure thing). The Celtics would need to go 15-5 in the final month in order to catch them. Can they do that?

Based on their schedule, yes they can. Would they be favored to? Probably not, but even when you factor in losses to Miami in both games, losing to Memphis and Dallas on road and one other wildcard loss (at home or on road to bad team) the C’s would be able to go 15-5. That would only be enough if they beat the Knicks twice, but that’s certainly not a far-fetched scenario.

15-5 may be asking too much from Boston, but remember we’re being optimistic about the Knicks going 11-11 as well with their schedule. Boston could do a game or two worse, but so could New York. I’d actually be surprised and impressed if the Knicks finished that well.

We’re forgetting about one other wildcard here though. Brooklyn

Oh right, that other team that is 2 ½ games ahead of the C’s in the standings. Boston would have to leapfrog them to in order to catch the Knicks. Let’s see how their schedule is looking the rest of the way.

Brooklyn Nets (7 home, 12 away)
19 games remaining
Games vs. playoff teams: 8
Back-to-backs: 7

Definitely a much more favorable slate than the Knicks as far as opponents go, but still that’s a lot of road games remaining. In fact, Brooklyn still has an eight-game road trip remaining, which features several prominent Western Conference squads.

They’ll go over .500, but I don’t think they can do too much better than that with so many roadies. Let’s peg them at 11-8, a reasonable prediction.

Assuming the Celtics are able to go at least 14-6 the remainder of the way (including beating the Nets at home in the Garden), that will be enough to leapfrog Brooklyn as well. Again, that’s no sure thing, but still a distinct possibility.

THE VERDICT

When you factor in schedules, injuries, and the way each of these teams have been playing, I believe the Celtics odds of winning the division are much higher than nine percent. A lot of it will ride on the head-to-head matchups. Boston needs to beat both New York and Brooklyn in all of those division games the rest of the way to have a real shot.

If they do though, the rest of the schedule lines up nicely for the possibility. You know Doc Rivers loves home court, but also will want to give Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett some rest over the remainder of the year to be fresh for the postseason.

Going 14-6 or 15-5 seems like a tall order when you factor those games not playing games here and there, but if Doc picks his spots right, it’s doable. In fact, I’d put it closer to a 50-50 proposition at this point, that the C’s end the season playing .700 ball.

Boston’s shot at the division could end quickly with a successful Knicks road trip at this point, but if they are tripped up out west, Boston will be lying in the weeds, ready to pounce on an opening for another Atlantic Division crown.

  • bballfan

    Benefit of the doubt at 11 and 11? HA that won't happen but I do see the optimism and they could have a chance, but the celtics are NOT A GOOD TEAM, there time is done pierce and garnett should have abandoned ship like ray allen.

    • KillerGymRat

      Way to sneak into the party and pee in the punchbowl there "bballfan"

      I'm sure somebody will politely (or not so politely) show you the way out and to the Heat's blog site where you can laud Ray for being a title chasing traitor and join all the other bandwagoneers.

    • rob

      that's why they pushed the Heat to 7 in last year's ECF and are putting up similar numbers this year.

    • celticRas

      "There" what?! You don't even know what's the right word for it!

  • bugsbunny

    Off subject, but I've been thinking about this for a while now and wanted to put this thought out there for my fellow fans.

    To all the regular readers of Celtics Hub, I don't know how you all feel but I think this team is fucking great.
    It's easy to point out the things they do wrong, and the mistakes they make, but at the end of it all, who could ask for a more inspiring overall performance? KG, Truth, Doc, AB and the rest aren't perfect, but they manage to pull it off on a regular basis, and I can't wait to see their playoff faces. No matter what happens in the end, they are a reason to celebrate the Celtics' legacy and have put the team back into the bright lights of the NBA's elite, after that mostly god awful period some of us endured, from the early nineties until the 2008 championship season. So let the cards be dealt, and we'll see how the hand is played.

    • nhbluesman

      personally, i've loved watching this team come together since Rondo went down. Granted, i think our shot at a title is pretty slim, but i'm excited to see the C's fight it out in the playoffs… i think my favorite part of this season has been the further emergence of our young guys- even if Pierce and KG retire after this season, a core of Rondo, Bradley, Green, Sully, and Lee is a great group to be building around, and i'm sure Danny is already plotting for the future. I love the intensity we've been seeing from Green as well. i think at this point we should just assume he's never going to be a great rebounder, and just watch and appreciate the althletic monster he is on offense (i mean seriously, when was the last Celtics season where we've had so many amazing dunks? Green is flat out fun to watch!)

      • http://twitter.com/djKahnNYC @djKahnNYC

        I'm so glad to see all of these positive attitudes and die-hard fans. I feel the same way, these are our guys and whether or not they win it will just be great watching them leave it all out there, and cheering them on.

    • Josh_5

      I agree, and its all because we play with an old school grit and balls mentality. I love it. No flashy shit, just hard work.

    • CG12

      Totally agree. I really like the way the roster came together in the off-season, and this post-Rondo squad is playing like I hoped the C's would this year. They are still working on fully gelling, and people are still sleeping on them. I sometimes think that the media has paid no attention to the last couple of years, given the ease with which they write off the Celtics as serious contenders. Miami is a straight beast and the Spurs and OKC are both very very good, so the Celts are clearly not a favorite. But no one wants to play the Celtics in the playoffs, I guarantee you that. You know when KG is openly dropping salty verbal bombs on the media that this team is getting to their sweet spot, as far as attitude goes. I'm loving it.

  • Jessica

    Yeah I completely agree. I just look at the schedule and think they could lose 6 games which is only one over what u said they needed to go. I added one loss to the Knicks in NY. Then both to Miami, Indiana, Memphis, and Atlanta. Brooklyn and NY games at home we should win, so really there prob are 8 games we could lose. Indiana and Atlanta both those games r home games so that’s good. So if we do great at home and only lose one game (Miami) then we would only lose four games. NY in NY, two games to Miami, and at memphis. I certainly like our chances and that it’s mostly in our hands. Hopefully Carmelo stays home for this 5 game road trip they have coming up. That would help us tremendously. I think if he does not play for the road trip they will only win 1 game (Portland) and they still could lose that game. Isn’t this what the Knicks are usually like, good at the beginning of the season and downfall to the end, with a first round exit in the playoffs. I think Brooklyn might be our biggest competitors for the atlantic title. Who knows what will happen, but GO CELTICS!!!

  • Jessica

    Also I just wanted to say how I love how Jeff green is playing. When he’s aggressive he is great. He has been one of the biggest surprises for some people this season. I hope he wins comeback player of the year, after having heart surgery and being out a whole year to come back and play the way he has is incredible. I love his hustle, heart, and aggressive nature. I am so glad the celtics gave him that contract (you know the one everyone said was ridiculous). He is the future for the celtics, when PP retires. His defense has been good this season too, he almost always defends the other teams best player. He just overall has been great to this team and I am excited to see what he will do in the future… He is now becoming my favorite player!! I love this teams heart, they have been knocked down a couple times and most teams would lay down but do the celtics no, they get even better. Can’t wait for next season to see what this team can do. Hopefully PP and KG will stay on at least one more year (which I think they will give it one more shot) with rondo back, learning and playing this new way, and Sully back I think it his team can be great. We need to get a couple bigs in the offseason and we should be good…go celtics…plus with this team where this is there first yr together and they will also have an off season to jell even more. I think we will be in a good situation..

  • Sophomore

    For those of you keeping score at home, the Bklyn Nets just dropped a game to the Sixers.

    Granted, it was a road game, but still. If you're hoping to win the East, you shouldn't be dropping games in March to a team 15 games under 500.

    • Rhyso

      and NYK is getting KILLED by Golden State! Good times ahead i think

      • hydrofluoric

        LOLKNICKS!

  • JORGE VALENCIA

    I like our chances of getting the top spot in the Division, we could lose 4 games, we lose at Miami, NY, Memphis and Dallas. but we win all our games at home including the one with Miami, we already beat them without Rondo, Why not one more time. That will give us a 50-32 record, NY could be at 50 or 49 Wins and we will have the Tiebreaker becuase of better divisonal record. Go celtics nobady will want to see us in the Playoffs.
    One more though!!! can you Imagine if Both the Celtics and Lakers make it all the way to the Finals that wil be something jajajjajaja.

    Go celtics

  • Aris_Greece

    I believe that the stability that Celtics show last month is very important in order to catch not only NY and Brooklyn, but also Indiana and Chicago. This team can win everybody but can also make silly losses. Let's hope that they will make a 15 – 5 record, and they will be 2nd in the East Conference!!!

    Go Celtics

  • carlos

    umm celtics just lost by 20 to the bobcats

  • Jason

    I would have liked this article better if you actually made predictions and odds on who was going to win the division. I'd put the Knicks at 50% chance, which given their lead, say plenty about how hard they have it going forward. I'd put the Nets at 40% and the Celtics at 10%.

    When you try and challenge Hollinger's numbers on this, you have to account for the compound nature of the Celtics task. First the Celtics need to play really, really well. That is a low probability, because 15-5 stretches are GREAT stretches in the NBA. That's a .750 winning percentage. Go count up how many teams have posted that.

    Next you have to count on the Knicks stumbling AND the Nets stumbling. If the Knicks stumble, and the Nets go 5-3 on their road trip which includes some should wins against Utah, Dallas, Detroit, Phx, Portland, and Cleveland. Then the Celtics task gets a lot tougher.

    Then there is the Knicks stumble. Which would have to be severe, unless the Celtics do in fact post an elite .750 Win Percentage down the stretch.

    I just think this article doesn't account for the degree of difficulty of the task. I think Hollinger's numbers have it right. 9-10% chance at the division.

    Side Note: So to complete this post, I just looked at Hollinger's odds, and it seems I'm pretty spot on. Celtics are at 14%, Nets are at 37%, and the Knicks are at 49%. At the end of this 8 game road trip for the Nets, that playoff odds calculator will be a lot clearer.

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