By Jessica Camerato
Being the target of lesser teams is nothing new for the Boston Celtics. It has been that way ever since the establishment of the new Big Three, and Wednesdays loss to the sub-.500 Los Angeles Clippers showed that wasnt changing any time soon.
But this is the point in the season where the Celtics are targeted by a different kind of opponent - one that can gain more than just a boost of confidence by upsetting the Cs.
With the postseason only a month away, the Celtics face hungry teams desperately fighting for a playoff berth.
On Friday the Celtics lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, who improved to 8-2 over their last 10 games as they inch their way up the lower seedings in the Eastern Conference. Their win over the Celtics put them just half a game behind the New York Knicks for the sixth spot.
Up next is the Milwaukee Bucks (25-38) on Sunday at TD Garden. The Celtics are 2-0 against the Bucks this season, although both wins have been decided by single digits. The Cs won, 105-102 in overtime, on November 3 in Boston, and left Milwaukee with an 89-83 victory last Sunday.
After battling through a season plagued by injuries (Andrew Bogut is now back on the court), the Bucks are fighting for the eighth and final spot in the East. Wins over the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers have them closing in on the Charlotte Bobcats and the struggling Indiana Pacers.
"The team is picking up, but these are games we should win," said Brandon Jennings, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "So we can't be parading around here like we've done something. We've still got a long way to go."
The Bucks are aware their chances are winding down and every win or loss could have an impact on whether or not they make the playoffs. The significance of each regular season game is magnified at this point in their season.
"The season hasn't gone the way we wanted, but we're in a position where we still can
accomplish our goal," Earl Boykins, who scored 18 points on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"And that's playing in the playoffs. It's definitely a second chance, especially with winning the last few games. They're games we had to win. And earlier in the year they could have been two losses. I think guys realize now is the chance. We don't have any more time."
The Celtics have plenty at stake in this game, too. After losing to the Clippers and 76ers, the Cs (46-17) have just a half-game lead over the streaking Chicago Bulls (46-18) for the top seed in the East.
We expect to win every game, Ray Allen said following the loss to the Clippers. But any team at any point in this league is capable of winning any game. Were not better than them because of our record. Were better than them because we play hard every night and we play together. Walking into a game, record doesnt get you the next win.
You have to take a team like that and youve got to show them why they dont belong on the same floor as us.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba