Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 2/11/13
Forget about the shroud of uncertainty surrounding the Boston Celtics thanks to trade rumors and injury concerns circulating this season. It seems as though the veteran ball club has done everything in their power to stave off the doubt and not only maintain their legitimacy in the Eastern Conference, but improve their NBA odds in the process. With a five-game West Coast swing on the horizon next week, Boston will face all the more pressure to live up to their NBA futures. According to Bovada’s NBA oddsmakers, the Celtics have 20-1 odds of winning the championship. In order to make good on such lofty expectations, however, the short-staffed Celtics will have to find a way to continue to win games in the absence of superstar point guard Rajon Rondo and standout rookie Jared Sullinger. If their play of late is any indication, though, that shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks to a convincing win streak in the thick of the 2012-13 campaign, Boston has emerged as a contender for the Larry O’Brien Trophy this June. Although an elite-level Celtics team is nothing new, many had speculated that the window of opportunity had already closed on the squad led by the 36-year-old Kevin Garnett and 35-year-old Paul Pierce. Up first for the veterans on their West Coast adventure will be a more than capable Denver Nuggets team, followed by dates with, among others, the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers. There’s no guarantee that the C’s make it through the road swing with as much momentum as they’ll take into it, but Boston has done nothing but prove critics wrong this season. A quiet week this week, coupled with the looming NBA trade deadline means that this forthcoming five-game stand could be indicative of just where this team falls in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Although it’s nearly a foregone conclusion at this stage that they’ll qualify for the postseason, the question comes down to whether they’ll make the cut as one of the conference’s elite. Few may have suspected the Celtics to continue winning games at this point in the year considering the cards that they’ve been dealt — maybe that’s our fault for interpreting Boston’s age as a liability rather than an asset. Get NBA odds for the Eastern Conference playoff race at Bovada. With postseason positioning on the line, the final stretch starts now.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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