WHAT THEY HAVE DONE
1. Stayed afloat despite crippling injuries. Are they really four games above .500 after enduring season-ending injuries to three key players? Have they really won eight of nine since Rajon Rondo went down? Unthinkable, right? Doc Rivers deserves a mountain of credit. He keeps this team moving forward.
2. Seamlessly settled into a new up-tempo, ball-movement offense that has sparked the resurgence of several players, including Jeff Green and Jason Terry. This offense works so well that a faction of fans has questioned whether the team is actually better off without Rondo. (The answer is no.)
3. Tightened up on defense. With the incessant Avery Bradley leading the charge, the Celtics have started to harass opponents the same way Rivers-coached teams have done in the past. Players also firmly believe that defense comes first.
4. Learned to finish games. Adversity has brought the team together, and it has shown in tight wins (double overtime against Miami, triple overtime against Denver). With a minuscule margin for error, they’ve avoided costly collapses with several players stepping up, namely Paul Pierce.
WHAT THEY NEED TO DO
1. Avoid injuries. Bubble-wrap everyone. Fit them for every brace imaginable. Hire an ER staff to replace the assistants. Whatever it takes. Rivers said they cannot afford anyone else getting hurt — they just have to ignore injuries from now on. He was only half-kidding.
2. Keep Pierce and Kevin Garnett fresh. The Celtics go as their veterans go, but Rivers can’t ride them into the ground as the season grinds on. This is a tricky task. More than ever, the Celtics will rely on Pierce and Garnett, but Rivers has to find a balance so that they have something left for the playoffs.
3. Protect their house. Of the Celtics’ 30 remaining games, 12 are at TD Garden. They can’t let those wins slip away. The wear and tear of the road will be tough enough, but for these Celtics, no edge can be wasted, especially a spirited home crowd.
4. Acclimate any new pieces. The Celtics will add players, though it’s unclear how many, of what caliber, and at what position. Considering the salary-cap restrictions, it’s unlikely a big name will join the roster. But whomever they bring in must be able to fit in and contribute — fast.