Playoff picture in focus

So here's how crazy this season is for the Celtics: Boston enters Thursday's action one game back of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic Division and there's a chance that -- if Boston wins both ends of a back-to-back starting Thursday in Milwaukee and closing Friday in Philly -- it could vault to the top of the division, where, if maintained, the Celtics would be the No. 4 playoff seed in the East. A look at the current conference standings:


But here's a more sobering view, particularly for an inconsistent Boston squad with a daunting schedule ahead: The Bucks team they visit Thursday has won six in a row and is a mere three games back of Boston for a playoff berth. Meanwhile, the Knicks have won five in a row and are only two games back of the Celtics as well. According to John Hollinger's computerized playoff odds, the Celtics are currently projected to miss the postseason:


Yep, the Celtics are one step forward from being a top 4 seed and one step back from missing the postseason. That's this insane 2011-12 season in a nutshell.

Now, there's no need to get overly worried quite yet, Celtics fans, because Boston can put some space between itself and the teams below it if it takes care of business with two head-to-head matchups remaining against the Bucks (including the final day of the regular season) and one with the Knicks. And as John Hollinger examined earlier this week, it's hard to imagine the Knicks and Bucks both maintaing their recent success without coming back to Earth a bit. Alas, every game remains important for Boston, especially the next two nights.