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Previewing the 2nd half of the NBA season for Celtics

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The Celtics are on track to win 68 games and the road ahead is getting easier

The Boston Celtics now have 44 games under their belt for the 2017-18 season, racking up the second best record in the NBA (34-10) and setting up what looks to be an interesting second half of the season for the first place team in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics have seemed to iron out some of the in-season hiccups that most teams experience early on in the season: Marcus Morris, who was dealing with a knee injury for the first few months, is no longer on a minutes restriction, giving Brad Stevens the flexibility to play around with the starting rotation and has allowed Stevens to find comfortable spots in the rotation for rookie-sensation Jayson Tatum as well as other new additions to the team like Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis, Shane Larkin and Semi Ojeleye.

The teams overall ability to show poise and aggression on both sides of the court has those following the Celtics confident that this streak of success, which currently stands at seven straight wins, to continue well into the remaining 38 games on the schedule.

There are some tough Western Conference matchups for Boston coming down the stretch, as the team tries to maintain its status as the number one seed in the conference going into the final three months of regular season play.

The Celtics will play the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder one time apiece, all of which have a .675 average winning percentage, and all of which the Celtics have one win against this season. Those will be excellent matchups for the Celtics, as fans and others watching try to gauge this team on their quest to be the best in the NBA.

There will no doubt be a fair share of tough matchups down the stretch in the East as well; the Toronto Raptors will play host to the Celtics two out of the three times they face each other, Toronto is just four games behind the Celtics in the East, but the Celtics currently hold the matchup lead, squeezing out a one-point win against the Raptors on November 12th (95-94).

Right behind the Raptors in the East are the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who play Boston just one more time in the regular season, on February 11th, which is Paul Pierce’s retirement ceremony, as well as the much anticipated matchup between both team’s because of Isaiah Thomas’ return to the starting lineup for the Cavaliers in what will be his first game in action against the Celtics since being traded last summer.

The Celtics are 1-1 against Cleveland this season, losing opening night on the road to the Cavaliers (102-99) but pummeling them in the Celtics January 3rd home matchup (102-88)

Aside from the aforementioned teams, the Celtics face opponents with a .442 average winning percentage in the remaining 30 games.

To close out the month of January the Celtics play New Orleans, Philadelphia, Orlando, and both Los Angeles squads before facing the Warriors on the 29th, giving Boston the opportunity to extend their win streak to double digits and continue it furthermore if they are able to beat Golden State, who currently has the best record in the NBA (36-9).

The final ten games on the schedule look promising for the Celtics, playing teams like Phoenix, Brooklyn, Sacramento and Atlanta, who are on the outside looking in if the playoffs were to start right now. Mixed with a bevy of Eastern Conference matchups with teams like the Raptors, the Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks to finish out the 2017-18 regular season, the Celtics have ample opportunities to not only continue the win streak they currently obtain, but also stay atop the leaderboard in the East and put them in prime position to win games at home against whomever they face throughout the NBA playoffs come April.

Column provided By Devon Clements for CLNS Media and CelticsBlog.

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