All of a sudden, Celtics playing for Atlantic Division lead

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All of a sudden, Celtics playing for Atlantic Division lead

BOSTON The season began with Paul Pierce on the sideline with a heel injury. Rajon Rondo was out for eight games. A critical road trip ended with a loss at Oklahoma City, a game in which the C's only had three players 6-foot-9 or taller - and two were rookies.

Throw in the rumored trades and the slow start, and the last thing you would expect at this point in the season is the Celtics to be in position to take over first place in the Atlantic Division.

But that is indeed what's at stake Wednesday night as the Celtics face the division-leading Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics (20-17) positioned themselves for this following Tuesday night's 97-92 overtime win over Houston, which was Boston's fifth straight victory.

While it's clear that Wednesday's game is a big one for the Celtics, both the players and coaching staff tried to downplay its significance.

"I mean, we're just hanging in there, that's what we're doing," said coach Doc Rivers.

Kevin Garnett added, "You guys keep up with that, we don't. We try to take it a day at a time, a game at a time. Since we been doing that, it simplified a lot of things for us. We're not looking down the schedule and anticipating teams that we haven't even played yet.

Garnett added, "I just know that it's important for us to continue to play together basketball. It's more easier for everybody."

Still, with all that the Celtics have been through this season, to be where they are - on the cusp of taking over the top spot in the Atlantic Division - says a lot about this team beyond the fact that they're playing better basketball.

"It says we're fighters; grind this thing out and see what we can do," Garnett said. "If you know anything about this history for the last five years, we're going to grind and work and push for this thing and see how far we can take it."

While winning games - and not just the Atlantic Division - is the focus, don't think for a minute that the C's don't understand the added value that will come about in a win Wednesday against the Sixers (22-17), who have lost 8 of their last 10 games.

"This is definitely a division rival that we are going to have to overtake, and seeing as it's going to be important going into the playoffs," said Paul Pierce.

The Celtics (20-17) currently have the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference. However, if they win the Atlantic it would guarantee them home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"So these are important games," Pierce said.

Celtic draftees make first foray into community with presentation to Ohrenberger School

Celtic draftees make first foray into community with presentation to Ohrenberger School

WEST ROXBURY, Mass.  -- It was the last day of school for some band students at Ohrenberger School, many of whom were packed inside the gym eagerly awaiting the four newest members of the Boston Celtics basketball family. 
 
As eager as the students were to finish off the school year, for the Celtics rookies Wednesday’s appearance to unveil the school’s revamped “Music Zone” was just the beginning of their time with the Celtics.
 
Getting into the community has become an annual rite of passage for incoming Celtic rookies, with Wednesday’s event being part of the seventh annual Players’ Choice Grant.
 
The four-pack of Celts was headlined by Jayson Tatum, who was selected by Boston with the third overall pick. Joining him were second-round picks Semi Ojeleye, Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird.
 
“Working with the kids is always fun,” Tatum said. 
 
The charitable arm of the Celtics, the Shamrock Foundation, provided a $50,000 grant to a charity that was chosen by the players from the 2016-17 season.
 
Players were greeted by a gym full of middle schoolers who conducted a question-and-answer session with the players, with some students coming away with a basketball signed by all the players. 
 
“I really enjoyed getting to know the fans, the kids,” said Jabari Bird, who was drafted by the Celtics with the 57th overall pick out of Cal.
 
The “Music Zone” received 17 new MacBooks which contained musical software, with several instruments, a portable stage and additional furniture.

Report: Celtics expected to part ways with Kelly Olynyk

Report: Celtics expected to part ways with Kelly Olynyk

With the Celtics clearing the way to make a run at big names such as Paul George and Gordon Hayward, there will inevitably be salary-cap casualties.

But we'll always have Game 7 against the Wizards, Kelly Olynyk.

Olynyk, 26, averaged nine points and 4.8 rebounds last season, and will forever be remembered for his astonishing 10-for-14 shooting performance off the bench when he scored 26 points in the second-round series clincher over Washington at TD Garden.

After four seasons in Boston, the 7-footer and former first-round pick from Gonzaga is currently a restricted free agent and would surely turn down a Celtics' qualifying offer of a little more than $4 million. Until the C's renounce his rights, he counts for $7.7 million against the cap. 

That's money the Boston will need in its pursuit of George and Hayward. So, it's so long, Kelly O.