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The Boston Celtics have a 5-10 record. Before the victory over the Atlanta Hawks, they had a six-game losing streak. Right now the Celtics should be disappearing out of playoff contention.
Bizarrely, in the Atlantic Division of all places, that is not the case. Right now the C's find themselves just two games behind the division leaders.
Want to hear something even more peculiar? The division leaders are the Toronto Raptors.
More peculiar still? The Raptors are under .500.
The two clear contenders at the start of the season to make the playoffs from the Atlantic were of course the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Both these teams find themselves at the foot of the division and experiencing five-game losing streaks.
You might even look at the New York Knicks and think they're panicking. Many rumors have been flying around that they've approached the Celtics in regards to a trade for Rajon Rondo. The C's have reportedly rejected this, but are still open to making some form of a deal before February's trade deadline.
The rather sudden pursuit of Rondo by the Knicks is being seen by many as a hysterical attempt to get some big names in the team. To make matters worse, they have to travel to Portland to face the Trail Blazers and Los Angeles to take on the Clippers. Both those games fall within three days of each other. Unless the Knicks are suddenly able to turn their fortunes around, they could head into December with a seven game losing streak, and that's if you're assuming they beat the Denver Nuggets on the 29th.
The Brooklyn Nets have even bigger problems. They made big moves during the off-season, namely for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but Jason Kidd's team is failing to get into the swing of things. After their defeat to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night, the Nets came out and said that they fully support Jason Kidd as their head coach. If history is anything to go by, this might be a sign that the writing is already on the wall.
Because of their acquisitions, you can argue that there is more pressure on the Nets than on the Knicks. The Nets have to face the conference leading Raptors on Tuesday and then have road games against the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzles before the end of November. At the beginning of December though they face the Knicks at the Barclays Center in a game which could well separate the two teams.
It's still a little too early to say what this means for the Celtics. For the time being at least, it means that the playoffs are not as far out of reach as you would expect them to be. In fact, it's within arms reach. In the long term it could mean that the dynamics of what defines a successful first season for Brad Stevens has changed. Instead of just competing and causing teams as many problems as possible while building a young team, the C's could find themselves upsetting the expected order of things and staying in playoff contention until the last few months of the season.
The events in Brooklyn and New York will certainly not have attracted that much attention from Brad Stevens. You can't imagine a worse hell for him than basing his team's success on other team's failures. He will however see this as an opportunity to the Celtics' rivals where it hurts.
It's an opportunity that Brad Stevens will not allow to be wasted.