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After winning three straight games, the Boston Celtics have just 23 games left before the playoffs are upon them. The Celtics still have a lot to prove on the road before the seeding is completed after the 82-game season. The Celtics stand just two games below the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and that means a lot could be at stake over the next month and a half. Sure, other teams will play until the final day, but the Celtics should play it safe and rest the older players in the final games leading into the postseason.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will be the main beneficiaries of this time off. The tired legs of these two players will be an asset come the playoffs if they can get some rest. Not only will they be able to breathe easy during tough games against Miami and New York, but also they can move easier on the defensive end to come up with that green-team defense down the stretch of close games. Jason Terry may also need some rest due to his age, but not as much since he has more of a reserve role for the Celtics.
Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox would also get a confidence boost when these older players rest. Green and Wilcox would likely start for the Celtics if Pierce and Garnett rest, and get a chance to contribute more than if they were coming off the bench. Over 30 minutes of playing time for Green could lead to a lot more highlight reel dunks and even a 40-point game depending on the opponent. Wilcox should be able to get a double-double and play solid defense to show the Celtics that he deserves a spot in the playoff rotation for more than just a couple minutes each game.
If the season ended today, the Celtics would play against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers may have some younger players, but they have a huge size advantage against the Celtics. This would be a bad matchup for Boston. The Celtics need to at least be in a position to play the New York Knicks since the matchup makes for a better situation for the Celtics to get a series win. Carmelo Anthony may have been in MVP talks at one point, but Green and Pierce could guard him to get him out of rhythm.
If the Celtics make it out of the first round, it will be tough to get through the Miami Heat. LeBron James is playing insane right now and the other pieces also cause matchup problems for the Celtics. The Celtics could push it to six or seven games, but it will be very hard to force an elongated series against the Heat without Rajon Rondo. Rondo is the king of mismatches against the Heat and caused a plethora of problems last season. Without the beloved point guard, the Celtics will likely have to wait until next year to be a true contender.
The Celtics still have a chance to earn the fourth seed, but with only 11 of its final 23 games at home, the Celtics will need to come up big on the road in order to catch up to the three teams in front of them in the standing. The only way Pierce and Co. to be able to contend for another NBA title in 2013 is to move up in the standings while resting the older players- a tough task.