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Things Won't Be Easy For The Celtics Over The Next Eight Weeks

Now the NBA All-Star Weekend is officially over and the season is more than halfway over, lets take a look at the road ahead for the Boston Celtics.

Teams resume play Thursday night across the NBA, but the Celtics are stuck waiting until Friday night to play their first game since Valentine’s Day.

Coming out of the break, the C’s will play back-to-back road games over the weekend with the Detroit Pistons slated for Friday at 7:oo p.m. and the New York Knicks on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

To start off the second-half of the season, the Celtics (40-19) are only two games back of the Toronto Raptors (41-16) for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. But the Raptors do have two games in hand, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who sit in third place at 6.5 games back, have three games on the C’s.

RELATED: Celtics Drops Third Straight Heading Into All-Star Weekend

Over the last 23 games of the regular season, the Celtics have a pair of key matchups against the Raptors and Washington Wizards (4th place, 8.0 GB). Plus they still have to play at the Houston Rockets on the first Saturday of March and they welcome Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Garden in late March. We won’t be seeing a Celtics-Cavaliers game again until maybe the playoffs.

Out of the Celtics remaining 23 games, 13 are within the East, four are in the division and the rest are against teams from the West.

Five-time All-Star, Kyrie Irving, is leading all Celtics scorers with 24.7 points-per-game, to go with five assists and four rebounds over 32.8 minutes-per-game. He’s shooting an impressive 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-land.

Rookie forward Jayson Tatum is averaging 13.5 points-per-game on 47.5 percent from the field and 43 percent from three, during 31 minutes-per-game. And he’s even knocking down free throws at a consistent clip at 82 percent. He’s shown he can bang the boards, while snagging five rebounds a game.

Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Aron Baynes round out the starting five with a combined 33 points, 18.4 rebounds and 7.6 assists-per-game.

And sixth-man Marcus Morris is shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 37 percent from three for 12.2 points-per-game over 25 minutes on the floor. The Celtics big is a force in the paint, grabbing an average of five rebounds a game.

We can only hope that Terry Rozier III continues to progress and contribute the way he has all year, especially most recently, and recently acquired Greg Monroe can do some big things during his minutes off the bench.

Daniel Theis has shown to be a solid addition off the bench, while playing key minutes and providing that much need spark on the defensive end of the floor. And at this point, no one's holding their breathe for Marcus Smart's return.

UPDATE: Marcus Smart Cleared To Play Friday At Pistons

RELATED: Marcus Smart Says Celtics Lack 'Effort,' Blames Self

The Celtics need to get back to the basics as they come out of the break. The defense needs to seal things up in the paint, while continuing to keep shooters uncomfortable around the perimeter, because they’re giving up too many open looks right now. We need to see them start playing like the top ranked defense we know they are.

And offensively, they need to stop forcing unnecessary shots and work on finding the open man again. The Celtics were playing so well when ball movement was a priority and players were keeping their feet moving. As of now, the C’s are sitting 25th in the NBA in points-per-game at 103.1 (Golden State #1 @ 115.8).

The next eight weeks of Celtics basketball will be loaded with three-game weeks, strong opponents, and tons of playoff implications.

UP NEXT: The Celtics (40-19) will play the first of back-to-back road games this Friday, February 24, against the Detroit Pistons (28-29). Catch the call of the game with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell live on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m., with tip-off set for 7:00 p.m.

--  By John 'The Dude' Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com

John Hardiman is a Digital Producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for John? Hit him up on Twitter @HardiDude or e-mail him at [email protected].