The Celtics head to Atlanta on Saturday with a chance to seriously impact the bottom end of the Eastern Conference playoff picture -- and thus a chance to influence the identity of their first-round opponent.
Over at Indy Cornrows (my favorite source of Pacers content, for what it's worth), Tom has a fun list of ten reasons making the case why the Celtics should come out looking to put the hammer down on Atlanta this weekend, thus boosting the Pacers' playoff hopes. Some highlights:
3. Larry Bird making an appearance in Boston if the Pacers make the playoffs. What a great way for to begin a championship run.
4. Celtics legend Bird needs a pick me up. Come on, do legend a favor.
5. Did I mention Larry Bird? Just look at the retired numbers hanging in the rafters. The 1986 championship C's won the East by 10 games, yet 33 played in all 82.
Tom progresses from there over to the Jim O'Brien connection and then has a few reasons dedicated to more serious commentary on why this is a game worth getting up for on the Celts' part. It's good stuff all around and definitely worth a read.
Meanwhile, I'm uncertain as to how to be looking at the as of yet undetermined identity of the Celts' first opponent.
Both teams have heated up as of late, but it's been largely thanks to playing over-matched opponents. The Hawks have won six of eight and the Pacers three in a row, but the bottom-of-the-barrel Eastern Conference teams have been featured prominently on both schedules.
Indiana could be of some worry because a potentially healthy Jermaine O'Neal could provide the Pacers a huge boost in the low post. On the other side, Atlanta's young guys have at least started to put it together this year, and the Hawks have enough versatile, crazy-good-athleticism-type guys that they could conceivably cause match-up problems for anybody on just about any given night.
Ultimately, the lesson is simple, and it's one we all should have learned from Dallas-Golden State last year: Don't overlook anyone in a playoff series.
But with that said, it's hard not to feel good about the fact that the C's are a combined 5-0 against these two teams on the season with four of those wins coming by double-digit margins. Not too shabby thus far. So as always, there is room for confidence, though we can do without cockiness.