ATLANTA And so the sprint to the finish begins . . . now.
If the Boston Celtics are going to position themselves to climb up the Eastern Conference standings, it has to begin this week.
All three of their opponents - Atlanta tonight, Milwaukee on Thursday and Philadelphia on Friday - are seeking the same upward mobility.
"This is a huge week for us," said Paul Pierce. "We understand the magnitude of all these games. Now it's that point, the weather's heating up. We have to start heating up. That sense of urgency has to kick in now."
Boston (23-21) has visions of winning a fifth straight Atlantic Division title, but currently trail Philadelphia by 1.5 games. If they fall short of that, the Celtics should be gunning for the No. 6 spot which would mean avoiding Miami and Chicago - the overwhelming favorites in the Eastern Conference - in the first round.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said this week "should be fun."
"We have a chance to catch Atlanta, have a chance to (create) room with Milwaukee, catch Philly the next three games will be great," he said. "It'll be a lot of fun."