The Boston Celtics have won three of their past five games, with two of those victories coming against the Golden State Warriors, who have the best record in the Western Conference, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who sport the Eastern Conference's best mark.
With big wins like those under their belt, one would imagine that the Celtics are feeling pretty good about their playoff chances as they try to hold on to the No. 2 seed in the East.
However, following Wednesday night's 99-86 road win over the Warriors, a few Celtics players said that wasn't the case.
According to the team's official Twitter account, the Celtics know that Cleveland was without Kevin Love and J.R. Smith and the Warriors were missing Kevin Durant when they lost to Boston:
The Celtics, meanwhile, are at full strength after Avery Bradley made his return following the All-Star break last month and have all of their top players available and (mostly) healthy.
Still, taking down a Cavaliers team featuring LeBron James and a Warriors team that still features Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is nothing to scoff at. The Celtics have played their best games against their toughest opponents recently and can use that momentum to build toward what they hope will be a deep playoff run.
However, recognizing that neither the Warriors nor the Cavs were at full strength is an important distinction that needs to be made, and the Celtics are right to stay humble and keep working hard down the stretch.
The Cavs are a different team with Love and Smith in the lineup and, even if Durant remains injured for the playoffs, counting on Curry and Thompson to continue their recent struggles is foolish. Both teams will continue to improve as the playoffs near, so Boston must work to keep pace.
The Celtics could use more production from center Al Horford, who only had 10 points, six rebounds and six assists on Wednesday night. Boston was expecting more from its new big man, who has seen his numbers dip since coming over from Atlanta last offseason.
Also, coach Brad Stevens needs to find a way to get more minutes for rookie forward Jaylen Brown, who was the No. 3 overall pick in last year's NBA Draft. Brown frustrated Steph Curry with his strong defensive effort on Wednesday and has the raw athletic ability that could make him a star.
Heading into the playoffs, it's safe to say neither the Cavs nor the Warriors will underestimate the Celtics should their title paths cross. And, based on the Celtics players' comments after Wednesday's win, they won't be underestimating anyone, either.News Now - Sport News