At one point, the idea of the Boston Celtics winning the Atlantic Division seemed like an impossibility. Boston was two games under .500 entering the All-Star break, and it looked like the wheels had finally fallen off in the Big Three era.
Fast forward nearly two months, and the Celtics are on the brink of winning the division crown.
Rajon Rondo and the Celtics can win the Atlantic Division with a win against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night (8 p.m. EST; TNT/WEEI) and a Philadelphia 76ers loss, which would mark their fifth straight division title of the Big Three era.
Speaking of the Big Three, all three of the Celtics' veteran star trio -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen -- will be back in action Tuesday. Pierce and Garnett did not travel with the team to Charlotte for its back-to-back-to-back finale on Sunday and Allen, who had been sidelined with a sore right ankle, is expected to be back in the rotation.
Arguably their most difficult month, April has been very successful for the Celtics, who have won seven of ten games in the month. Two wins over the Miami Heat, a big win over the division rival 76ers and an overtime victory against the Atlanta Hawks have highlighted the Celtics' wins this month, while back-to-back losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls, as well as a terrible loss to the Toronto Raptors have been the only low points for them in April.
After losing to the Raptors in the first game of their only back-to-back-to-back of the season, the Celtics rebounded with wins over the New Jersey Nets and the Bobcats, bringing their record to 36-25 with five games remaining in the regular season. Rajon Rondo has led the charge for Boston in the second half of the season, posting multiple triple-doubles while recording double-digit assists in 22 straight games heading into Tuesday night's game.
New York's month hasn't been too shabby, either. The Knicks have won four of the seven games they've played in April, including a thrilling 100-99 overtime win against the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls. Carmelo Anthony has been carrying the Knicks on his back this month, scoring more than 18 points in all seven games while topping the 29-point plateau five times. To top it all off, Melo has scored 42 points twice in the month. Not bad. Not bad at all.
A win won't guarantee the Celtics the division championship, at least not on Tuesday night. The Sixers will have to lose in their game against the Indiana Pacers, and Boston will have to handle its business. But with five games to go and a 4 1/2 game cushion, it's pretty safe to say that the Celtics will be your 2011-12 Atlantic Division champs by the season's end.