Tomorrow afternoon the Boston Celtics will close the book on 2013 with a matinee game against the Atlanta Hawks, but this also begins one of the most important weeks of their season. With three winnable matches against the Hawks, Bulls, and Pelicans, the C's will begin to reveal their true identity.
Boston has yet to find any consistency in a season that has featured many up-and-down stretches, with four losses in a row to start the year, then four wins, then six losses, then eight wins out of 12 games, and most recently, three out of four games lost. That's why Brad Stevens called this Celtics team "a heck of a movie."
But the movie hasn't been very good so far if your only priority is winning games, as those streaks have accumulated into a 13-17 record, or a 43.3 win percentage. Despite holding the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference, they still only have the 20th best record in the NBA.
And that's precisely why this week is so significant for the Celtics. They could conceivably win all three games, and surge into the New Year with a 16-17 record, just a hair under .500, and establish themselves as a team to take seriously in the East.
Or, they could continue to lose easily winnable games, proving that they belong in the same group as menial teams like the Raptors and Cavaliers.
"Green Runs Deep, hashtag Every Game is an Adventure," Brad Stevens joked last week, because of his team's apparent fondness for dramatic finishes. Nothing has come easy for the C's, and that probably won't change all season long, but this week it is time for them to establish their identity, whether or not it takes a Lord of the Rings type of adventure to get there.
It's important for the Celtics to win the next three games to help themselves in the standings, but it's arguably more vital to aiding their own psyche as the New Year begins. From January 5th through the 11th, Boston has five games against Western Conference teams with an astounding combined record of 103-50.
If the Celtics build momentum and confidence this week against inferior opponents, it will only help them during the toughest stretch of their season and beyond.