The second-place Celtics are trying to fend off the Wizards (1.5 games back) and maybe even catch the Cavaliers (two games up).
Boston will have to battle for position this weekend without its best player, Isaiah Thomas.
Boston beat the Magic by 30 in the first game Thomas missed this season, prompting far too many questions about whether the Celtics were better without him. Then they lost their other three games without Thomas: vs. Raptors, at Thunder, at Spurs.
Thomas is excellent, in the midst of arguably the best season ever by a sub-6-foot player. Whatever his shortcomings, particularly defensively, he brings far more positives.
That said, the Celtics have shown an ability to outplay lousy teams, and their opponents this weekend – Nets on Friday, 76ers on Sunday – qualify. Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier can handle point-guard duties in Thomas’ absence.
Boston might have to experiment with its biggest star sidelined, but that’s not so bad.