It’s difficult to get a good read on this year’s Celtics team. One quarter, they look like championship contenders. The next, they look like they’ll never score another basket.

If the Celtics close out the Sixers tonight in Game 6 of their best of seven series, they’ll most likely have to play their best basketball for the duration of most of the game. Those are proving to be some big Ifs for this year’s edition of the Green, who seem incapable of playing up to their full potential unless their backs are up against the proverbial wall.

Or, maybe, this has been their playoff plan all along.

This is the theory a hoops buddy of mine proposed early on in the Atlanta series: the Celtics don’t have enough in the tank to run their engines full tilt every game, so they are intentionally pacing themselves. The NBA playoffs are a marathon, not a sprint, and the Celts know they have to save up something for later. They are good enough to save a little for later, but not so good (or as deep as the other elderstatesmen of the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs, who haven’t lost a game through two rounds, and have the league’s most productive bench) that they can burn themselves out and guarantee a win.

It’s an interesting theory, I think. And one is that seems to be proving true for these Celtics.

They would, of course, get more rest if they won every game. But can they win every game, even against the Hawks and the Sixers? I would say no.

If the Celts do advance, as is expected, to play the Heat, as is expected, then we might see a more consistently driven Green Team. Then again, maybe not.

Pacing themselves is the best these Celtics can do. And their best is good enough to go all the way.