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Max On Sports Final: Next Few Games Most Important Of Season For Celtics

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Celtics dropped out of the postseason following Sunday night's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, but can quickly jump back into the playoff picture with a win on Monday night.

This is a big week for Boston, with just nine games remaining in the regular season. The Celtics take on the Hornets in Charlotte on Monday night, a team who trails them by half a game on the outside looking in.

But with a win against the Hornets, the Celtics can leapfrog the idle Brooklyn Nets to reclaim the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (Boston owns the tiebreaker over Brooklyn by virtue of their 3-1 head-t0-head record during the regular season).

98.5 The Sports Hub's Celtics color analyst Cedric Maxwell joined Dan Roche on WBZ-TV's Sports Final on Sunday night, and said the Celtics are entering must-win territory as the regular season winds down.

"If they're going to be a playoff team, they have to beat Charlotte in Charlotte. Then they have to turn around and beat Indiana [at home on Wednesday]. Those are the teams who are around you and trying to impede you from getting to the playoffs, so those are the most important games of the season," said Maxwell.

The Celtics got off to another poor start on Sunday, something that has plagued the team for the last couple of weeks. Max wants to see a much better defensive effort in the early goings of Monday night's tilt.

"[They have to] come out and be tougher on the defensive end. They let the Clippers do what they wanted to do, and you can't let Charlotte do that," said Max. "Al Jefferson can really be a load going against you, so they have to come out with more intensity on the defensive end. They didn't show that [Sunday night].

"I want to see some more hustle, leadership. I want to see more guys get mad like Marcus [Smart]," added Max. "He has been getting knocked to the floor over and over again, and his teammates eventually will have to get some retaliation against opposing guards."

Sunday night marked the start of a five-games-in-seven-nights stretch for Boston, which concludes with a back-to-back against Milwaukee and in Toronto on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.

"At this point of the season you really don't think about it, you keep playing," Max said of the busy schedule. "You don't even get tired anymore; it's just the next night. Sometimes as an athlete your body is tuned to keep playing -- being productive and playing well on the floor, that's the most important thing."

Hear every game of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics season on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the Boston Celtics. Pregame coverage with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell begins 30 minutes prior to every game! Occasionally a scheduling conflict will arise, in which case the Celtics can be heard on our sister station 100.7 WZLX.

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