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The Celtics chances of winning the Eastern Conference

01.19.11 at 10:39 am ET
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It has long been the assumption of most people that the Miami Heat will ultimately win enough games to get the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat’s stars are younger, obviously, and there was a feeling that such an accomplishment would “mean” more to them than the Celtics. So, when Miami went 21-1 and passed Boston for the best record in the East on Jan. 9, many assumed that was the beginning of the end for the Celtics hopes at gaining homecourt advantage.

That may be changing.

Miami has now lost four games in a row after last night’s overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks and the Celtics have a four-game edge in the loss column. How much is that worth?

According to Justin Kubatko’s playoff forecasting model on Basketball-Reference.com, it’s actually worth quite a bit. Using Kubatko’s method, the Celtics now have a 72.4 percent chance of gaining the top spot based on 1,000 simulations. That’s up from around 60 percent before Tuesday’s game.

With Kevin Garnett back in the lineup and more help on the way in February from Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West, the Celtics have kept themselves in position to make a run in the second half of the season. They would do well to continue putting pressure on Miami, who play 10 of its 13 games at home in the month of March.

For the Celtics, the question will be how much effort do they want to expend to get the top spot, but the opening is there. (Click here for more on the challenges facing the Celtics in the second half of the season).

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