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Bet on the NBAWith the way they have played since the NBA All-Star Break and the trade deadline, the Boston Celtics were lucky to get the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

As a result, they will be taking on the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, a team which is also messily looking for its identity with a new lineup.

The Celtics had some pretty worrying games near the end of the season, losing to both the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat in less than a week. The loss to the streaking, red hot Bulls was not a huge deal in and of itself, but the 100-77 beating they took at the hands of the Miami Heat must have greatly worried Boston head coach Doc Rivers.

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As a result, the Celtics rested their starters for the last week of the regular season, effectively giving up the second spot in the East. The big question, though, if why the Celtics starters needed to rest in the first place. The team is not facing any major injuries, although their starting lineup is aging. But all things considered, the players may have needed an extended break before the playoffs begin.

After all, the Celtics have been getting beaten up inside the paint since they traded away star center Kendrick Perkins. Perkins was a big body in the middle, and with his departure, Boston is left with a gaping hole inside. Kevin Garnett is more a power forward than a center, but has had to become more visible under the basket just to take up space and help defend.

While it is hard to attribute all of the Celtics' faltering to the trade decision, that is undoubtedly where the team first began to sink. From being in first place in the Eastern Conference, they fell to third behind the Bulls and Heat. They will take on the strong – though inconsistent – Knicks in the first round of the playoff.

And honestly, this first round series may be a toss-up. The Knicks could come out playing really well and eliminate Boston. But any way it turns out, I'm looking forward to a battle between the two teams, and would be shocked if either made it out of the series with a sweep. Expect the Knicks to win at least a game, if not two or three, before this one is over.

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