To win 56 games during the regular season, the Boston Celtics had to defy age. If the Celtics are going to stay among the ranks of Eastern Conference contenders in 2011-12 after injuries and the Miami Heat proved too much to overcome in the postseason, they'll have to do it again.
After losing Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Boston's stars placed renewed value on the importance of the regular season and trying to secure home-court advantage. Though the Celtics ended up finishing third in the East, which gave Miami home court in the conference semifinals series between the teams, they did win six more games than in 2009-10. Boston's Big Three -- Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- all improved upon their statistical production, an impressive feat given that all three players are well into their 30s.
As ESPN.com's Bill Simmons tackled earlier this season, rigorous offseason conditioning and work in the gym have helped Allen, Garnett and Pierce stave off age. Still, it's a question of when and not if the Celtics' stars will drop off. At some point, decay in their games is inevitable. The question that Boston needs to answer this offseason is how significant that decline will be in 2011-12.