Weary and still banged up, the Boston Celtics return home from their brutal eight-game West coast road trip on Sunday, and they will get a gift in their opponent -- the Washington Wizards -- who they will host at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Garden in Boston, MA (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI).
The bad news is that the Celtics didn't gain any ground on the trip, but they didn't lose much either. Boston had a chance to leapfrog the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference on Friday, but were instead blown out by the Sixers for the second time this month. Boston finished the road trip with a 4-4 record.
Still, there is time for the Celtics to recover. Unfortunately, the road is not easy. Boston gets a gift in Washington on Sunday (but with this team, a "should win" game is far from a guaranteed victory), but it will face the likes of the Miami Heat (twice), the San Antonio Spurs, the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers, the Sixers, the New York Knicks, the Orlando Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks in their final 19 games. Easy? No, not in the least.
The C's are clinging to the seventh seed in the East and are 1.5 games out of first in the Atlantic (trailing the Sixers). With the Bulls and Heat bullying their way through the conference, the Celtics absolutely need to finish first in the division to claim a top four seed and avoid a first round matchup with either Chicago or Miami if they hope to have any level of success in the postseason. A win against Washington on Sunday won't mean everything, but it still helps.
Washington is working in new center Nene, who was unexpectedly shipped from the Denver Nuggets to the Wizards for young big JaVale McGee at the trade deadline. Nene sparked the Wizards to a win in his debut with the team, in which he scored 22 and snagged 10 rebounds, but Washington has since returned to its losing ways, dropping two straight.
Mickael Pietrus' health continues to be the storyline for Boston heading into Sunday, as the reserve swingman suffered from a scary concussion in the team's loss to Philly on Friday. Pietrus went down hard after driving to the basket in the second quarter and was taken away on a stretcher. Tests revealed that he had a closed head injury, but it was later reported that the injury wasn't as serious as initially expected. Pietrus was cleared to return to Boston and may play on Sunday if he passes the NBA's concussion tests.