What to look for on the second half of the Boston Celtics west coast trip

Boston Celtics (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics have gotten off to a great start on their west coast trip. What should we expect from their final 3 games in California?

Before embarking on this crucial road trip out west, the Boston Celtics had lost 6 of 7 coming back from the All Star break.  Everyone from fans to talking heads were wondering if this was the breaking point for them.  Adam Silver had just been interviewed by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and had said currently, there are a lot of unhappy players in the NBA.  People could argue that 15 of them were inside the Celtics’ locker room.

This west coast trip they’re currently on could realistically swing this season in one way or the other.  It could be a wake up call and light a fire under their collective butts or they could continue down the losing path to a lower playoff seed then they’re currently in.  The trip kicked off against the two-time defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors and then south to take on a scrappy Sacramento team that is currently on the playoff bubble.

Sacramento is also surrendering their 1st round pick to Boston in the upcoming draft so they had a lot to prove and weren’t just going to roll over for the mighty Celtics.  Once finished in the California capital city, they trek down to L.A. for battles against LeLakers and the Clippers, who both recently beat Boston at the TD Garden in dramatic fashion. The Clips came back from down 28 and former Celtic hero Rajon Rondo hit a game winner to help the Lakers to victory.  This west coast trip is either going to help pull this team together or break them completely.

Game 1 of the trip came and went with the Celts cruising to an 11-point lead and never looking back, beating the champs by 33 points.  This was the team all Celtics fans were hoping and waiting for since last season’s game 7 loss to the Cavs (without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward).  Everyone seemed locked in from the opening tip and it was a sight to see.

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There was also something that we hadn’t seen in a long time from the bench: smiles.  Gordon Hayward played arguably his best game in green, Kyrie Irving had a double double and even Marcus Morris got out of his funk and shot 50% from the field in limited minutes.  This was a team that must have been singing “Kumbaya” on the 5-hour flight to San Francisco and it showed.

They headed to Sactown the next day for a back to back without Kyrie (sidelined with a thigh contusion).  The Celts are currently on a 7 game winning streak without Kyrie suiting up, which is one of the media’s favorite things to harp on.

I’m in the camp of the Celts are better when Kyrie plays. I mean, why wouldn’t you want a championship winning PG who is deadly in the 4th quarter? Terry Rozier started in his spot and had a fine game (16/6/2) and it ended with Hayward continuing his strong play with a game winner at the buzzer.

Could the Celts finally be putting it altogether and putting their egos aside?  Will this continue as they cruise down to Los Angeles to play two teams that are going in opposite directions?  The Clips are battling for the playoffs while the Lakers seem to be looking forward to summer vacation.  LeBron had said “he’s activated playoff mode” and as he always does, he will rise to the occasion and play his best against his rival Celtics.  Both L.A. teams have plenty of cap space this summer to add max contracts so they’re probably going to do some recruiting while the Celts are in town as well.

A few things to look for as they finish off this west coast trip and head back to Beantown:

Body Language

It looked completely different in the Golden State game.  You had players taking charges left and right, picking each other up and cheering them on.  Baynes took a charge versus Boogie Cousins and the smallest guy on the floor, Terry Rozier, got right in his (Cousins’) face.  Kyrie showed that he does still enjoy basketball while smiling on the bench. Let’s see how this continues in the next two games.

Gordon Hayward’s Confidence

Maybe he just needed to get away from Boston and put away the video games.  In these last two games his field goal percentage is .675 and it looks like he’s letting the game come to him and just make plays.  He had active hands in the passing lane versus the Warriors and hit the game winner in Sacramento.  This is the Gordon we’ve all been waiting for.  Let’s hope he continues to gain health and confidence as the Celts enter the playoffs.

Kyrie’s Leadership

After taking the night off in Sacramento, he will be back in uniform as the Celtics take on LeBron and the Lakers.  It’s going to be interesting to see how much he and LeBron chat before, during and after the game.  Will LeBron be putting on his “agent” hat and try to get him to jump ship and head west come July?  Or is Kyrie going to show he can lead by example and guide this team down the stretch?

Load management

With Aaron Baynes back in the line up, look for Brad Stevens to give Al Horford some rest down the stretch.  Big Al is the undisputed veteran leader on this team and if the Celts plan to win the East, they need Al to be healthy and rested.  As we’ve seen in the past, he is Joel Embiid’s kryptonite and currently, the Celts will be going to Philadelphia in round 1.  Also look for Daniel Theis to get some additional minutes from here on out.

Standings watch

The Pacers lost on Thursday and Philadelphia lost to Chicago on Wednesday night. They also happen to play each other on Sunday. Currently, the Celtics are a game behind Philly and two games behind Indy for the 3rd and 4th seeds in the east.  The Celtics’ schedule does not get any easier once they return from the west and will be hosting Sacramento, Atlanta and Denver, then back on the road for a battle with Philly.  It’s not only March Madness in the NCAA’s, it definitely relates to the NBA as well.

Headband Jayson Tatum

The Celtics are 1-0 with him currently rocking the headband. Is he channeling Celtic great, Paul Pierce? He had 24 points in his first headband game so let’s hope he continues to play strong down the stretch like he did last year as a rookie.

Next. This time around feels different for the Boston Celtics. dark

The final three games of their west coast road trip kick off tonight at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers. If the Boston Celtics keep the composure they had in the first two games of the trip, they could be on the verge of a winning streak.