The Boston Celtics  knew securing homecourt would not be the only challenge in the second half of the season. They also have to fend off playoff-hungry teams that are staying alive one win at a time.
‘Being the defending champ,’ Ray Allen  said prior to the All-Star Break, ‘Teams are in our building thinking this in an opportunity for us to beat this team. And if we can prove that we can beat this team, we can beat anybody and we’ll make it into the playoffs, and who knows from there. So we always have to be aware of what we possess.’
On Sunday afternoon, the Bucks affirmed that concern with an 86-77 win over the Celtics in Milwaukee. (RECAP HERE ) With that victory, the Bucks reclaimed hold of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. This is not the last time the Celtics will be caught in the middle of a tug-of-war for a playoff berth.
March 17: @ Chicago Bulls  (30-37)
Season: Celtics 2-0
The Celtics have not faced the Bulls since they added veterans Brad Miller  and John Salmons , a move that recently helped them beat the New Orleans Hornets  by 18 points. The Bulls lost hold of the eighth spot with the Bucks win over the Celtics, and there is there is no better place for them to get to take it back than on their home court. They have earned 20 of their 30 victories in Chicago, tied for sixth in home wins in the Eastern Conference.
April 1: vs. Charlotte Bobcats  (28-38)
Season: Tied 1-1
In spite of their record, the Bobcats have been a thorn in the Celtics side. Last year they beat the Celtics in Boston and this season snagged an overtime win in Charlotte. Even though the Bobcats have struggled with consistency, alternating winning and losing streaks, they step up their game against the Celtics. They’ll come to Boston with less than 10 games left in the regular season, an opportunity to bolster their playoff hopes.
April 8: vs. New Jersey Nets  (28-37)
Season: Celtics 3-0
The Celtics blew out the Nets twice without Kendrick Perkins  and beat them again in March without Kevin Garnett . While Devin Harris and Vince Carter  are backcourt threats, the Celtics already know how to win without their bigs. The Nets seemed to lack any motivation on their first trip to Boston in January. With a postseason berth on the line, they will stand no chance of making a push if they show up with the same level of energy in April.