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CelticsBlog roundtable: we predict the final twenty-two games of the regular season

Could the Celtics hit 50 wins?

Atlanta Hawks Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Bill Sy: In our revisit of our preseason predictions, I set the bar at 50 wins and I’m sticking to it. They’ll have to go 16-6 with the 10th easiest schedule in the league. That means splitting four games against the Warriors, Jazz, and Grizzlies (x2) and grabbing at least a game or two out of five from the Bucks, Heat, Bulls, and Nets with some wiggle room to spare. And keep this in mind:

Boston could benefit from their conference rivals beating up on each other. I’d imagine that if they hit that mark, they’re at least hosting a first round series in April.

Jack Simone: It may seem optimistic, but a 16-6 (a 50-win season) record seems about right. And to be honest, there’s a good chance they could win more than that. They have some tough games coming up after the break, but there are plenty of contests against subpar opponents mixed in, too. When accounting for trap games and surprising wins (both ends of the spectrum for this year’s Celtics), anywhere from 14 to 18 wins seems about right based on how they’ve been playing. I’ll sit right in the middle of those two numbers. And as far as where that would put them in the standings, it’s hard to tell. Most likely they’d be around the four seed, but it could put them as high as maybe two and as low as maybe six. The East is just that close.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Smith: I predicted 48 wins before the season. To hit that number, the Celtics will have to go 14-8 over the final 22 games. That seems very doable. That’s a 52-win pace over a full season. If Boston hadn’t had so many weird and bad losses, that would feel about right for this season. One key? Getting off to a good start coming out of the break. A west coast trip looms in mid-March. If Boston can hit that swing at 7-2 or so, then they’ve got a great shot at the strong finish.

Last thing: The schedule closes with a road gauntlet at Chicago, Milwaukee and Memphis. But who knows what teams will be playing for by that point? Those games look tough today, but could feature teams resting up for the postseason.

Neil Iyer: Assuming good health, the Celtics will continue their prolific play and finish the season 16-6. Their 50-32 record will likely earn them a 3rd or 4th seed. Their post All-Star schedule begins with three away games against Brooklyn, Detroit, and Indiana. The non-Durant/Kyrie Nets shouldn’t be a problem, they’ll exact revenge on the Pistons after last week’s loss, and the new-look-but-still-sputtering Pacers shouldn’t be an issue.

Boston has a four-game western road trip in mid-March with two easy games (Sacramento and OKC) and two tough ones (Golden State and Denver). They end the season with a three-game road trip against three playoff locks — Chicago, Milwaukee, and Memphis and it’s possible these teams will be resting players. Their remaining schedule is supposedly on the tougher side, but I believe this team is hitting its groove and they won’t slow down. The Celtics will end the season with the league’s top defensive rating, too.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Sheils: Even with the race in the Eastern Conference being tough, I think the Celtics have a chance to close out this season with 50 wins. In 2022, the Celtics have a record of 17-7 over 24 games, and with 22 games left, there’s a real possibility to close out just as strong.

It’s not a cakewalk by any means, as there’s some tougher matchups sprinkled in against Atlanta, Brooklyn (twice), Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Golden State, Memphis (twice), Miami, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Utah. On the flipside, Boston will also have softer matchups with Detroit (twice), Indiana (twice), Charlotte, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Washington.

What it will ultimately come down to is how healthy Boston is and how they react after that trap game loss to Detroit before the break, which personally I’m not worried about. If Robert Williams and Marcus Smart come back alright after the All-Star break, I don’t see a reason as to why this team can’t pick up right where it left off. I don’t think they’ve reached their peak, either.

Mike Dynon: Before Opening Night, 50 wins felt like a nice round, achievable number, placing the Celtics probably 3rd or 4th in the East. However, since they didn’t start the season well, the new projection here is slightly lower at 48 wins and probably the 5th (possibly 4th) playoff seed. The C’s should win 8 of their 10 remaining home games and split the final 12 on the road. That would be a 14-8 finish, putting them at 48-34 (58.5%) for the season, and 14 games above .500 – something most of us would’ve gladly signed up for after December.

A factor that could help Boston move up in the standings is that the teams above them will be knocking each other off: the Bulls and Bucks face each other three more times, and the Cavs and Sixers do the same. Most of all, the Celts need to stay ahead of the Nets and Raptors to avoid dropping back down into the risky play-in tier. Buckle up for two games with Brooklyn (away February 24, home March 6) and a visit to Toronto (March 28). Wherever they end up in the standings, the main thing is for the Celtics to be playing their best heading into the postseason, where anything can happen.

Bobby Manning: The Celtics surprised me before the break and showed they could sustain one significant loss to their rotation, when Robert Williams III sat and Boston beat the 76ers in historic fashion last week. Two starters? That dropped the Celtics to the level of the Detroit Pistons, at least for one night.

Ime Udoka, Jayson Tatum and others keep emphasizing full health being the key to Boston’s turnaround. If that’s the case, I’m still concerned about what Smart and Williams III’s health could dictate coming out of the break. Udoka said he doesn’t think either injury, a sprained ankle and calf ailment, will be long-term concerns, but the same was said for Jaylen Brown’s hamstring earlier in the season.

Fortunately, if full health is intact, the Celtics could continue to tear off victories down the stretch of the season, starting with a Nets squad unlikely to play Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons, and Kyrie Irving out at home. From there it’s Detroit, Indiana and the Hawks again at home. Let’s say Boston sweeps that stretch of games, drop the Grizzlies and Hornets matchups, beat the Nets and Pistons at home, fall to the Mavs, then split the west coast trip, rip off six straight against Utah, Minnesota, Toronto, Miami, Indiana and Washington (possible with health), then go 1-2 on the road trip to close the year, that brings the Celtics to 15-7.

If that figure falls by two or three games in the wrong direction due to injuries, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I am bullish on the closing stretch and the defensive strategy that the Celtics are implementing with Robert Williams III off the ball that opposing teams seemingly can’t solve. There’s a world where multiple players are in and out of the lineup where Boston plays closer to the .500 slog we saw earlier in the year. If they’re intact though, I don’t see any reason why this group can’t storm to the finish line, with only 2-5 games that are exceedingly difficult left, three of those coming at the tail end, when rest could become a factor. Opposing injuries and absences have already benefited the Celtics to some extent on their recent run and that projects to continue in the early and late portions of their remaining schedule. This group could be sitting in home court position when the regular season ends.

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