By A. Sherrod Blakely
ATLANTA The Chicago Bulls have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat have had the most hype.
In between them, literally and figuratively, is the Boston Celtics.
While the C's may not be the sexiest pick to come out of the East this season, Atlanta Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson still view the Celtics as the team to beat.
"I know when playoffs come, they're going to be hitting on all cylinders," Johnson told CSNNE.com.
Even with the Celtics struggling of late, Johnson said regular-season struggles don't really impact a team like the Celtics.
"They've been there before," he said. "They understand what it takes to win, take their game up two or three notches. You have to respect that."
Hawks forward Josh Smith certainly does.
"They're the team until somebody proves them wrong," Smith said. "They've been the team for these past couple of years."
And while Smith is quick to recognize the success that Chicago and Miami have had this season, "those teams . . . are hot teams that people are talking about right now. What they have to understand is, this is a veteran ballclub and they've been in these situations. Like everybody says, the regular season doesn't matter. It's what you do in the postseason. They have three Hall of Fame players, and they've already figured out how to get it done with each other. The Miami situation is still up in the air, how they're going ot make it work in the postseason. This team, they already understand. They know."
Celtics center Nenad Krstic was with the team, but didn't play against the Hawks and won't play Sunday against the Pistons after suffering a right knee injury in the second quarter of Boston's 107-97 win at San Antonio on Thursday.
Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com that Krstic will have an MRI performed on the knee Saturday afternoon.
Without Krstic, the Celtics once again find themselves short-handed at the center position.
Jermaine O'Neal, who returned to action against the Spurs after being out with a left knee injury since late-January, will continue to come off the bench while the C's move Glen Davis into the starting lineup.
A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.