Over the last few days in the NBA, it feels like the league desperately needs the All-Star break. Being one of four teams with two All-Stars for the Boston Celtics is quite an accomplishment, but despite that, there is still a job to do with six vital games before the hiatus begins.
In the final 12 minutes against a depleted Suns team, Boston failed to maintain the momentum it gained from a stellar third quarter where it brought the deficit to one heading into the final period. With the way the Cs took the game to Phoenix on the road, there was only one way the Suns would respond in the reverse matchup. Monty Williams’s team shot the ball 20 more teams from the field compared to the Celtics, converting on Boston’s 15 giveaways. Joe Mazzulla’s men were not able to capitalize in the final period last time out, but the focus has to shift to what lies ahead.
The Boston Celtics went 5-1 in the final six games going into the All-Star break in their previous campaign, and this has to be the goal considering how tight it is getting at the top of the Eastern Conference. Joe Mazzulla and the Cs take on the two teams chasing them for the No. 1 seed, and a talented Grizzlies team to close out the action before the All-Star break.
Overall, the Celtics have lost four out of their last six contests with the main theme being costly turnovers, and a small assist total. In games where Boston comes out on top, it averages over 27 assists per game. In these past four losses, the Boston Celtics have accumulated three less than the average with the Suns game being the worst as Boston managed just 18 assists.
In order to finish this final stretch on the right note, this ball club has to figure out how to play with Jayson Tatum off the floor. Over the last five contests, the Cs are a -4.8 with Tatum off the court. The now All-Star starter cannot play all 42 minutes, and when he gets his well-deserved breather, the rest of the team has to some semblance of a sustainable offense. With Tatum on the bench to begin the fourth quarter at the Garden against the Suns, the away side pieced together a 14-2 run that essentially put the game out of reach with nine minutes left in the contest.
Having a reeling Pistons team that is 7-17 on their home floor this season next on the agenda should help, but with the way the Celtics have competed against teams with under .500 records this season, it is not going to be one Boston simply runs away with. The Bucks seven game win streak brings Giannis Antetokounmpo and a determined Milwaukee side just one game behind the top-seeded Cs. Boston’s meeting with Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Valentines Day at the Fiserv Forum could potentially be a game that decides who heads into the break with a lead at the top of the East. With the way the Celtics defended the former two-time MVP on Christmas, the “Greek Freak” will be out for revenge with the last time being Giannis’ second worst performance plus/minus wise of the 2022/23 campaign.
Doc Rivers and the Sixers may have just blown a lead against the Knicks, but they are 8-2 in their last 10 games including a win over the Western Conference’s top-seeded Nuggets. It will be the first meeting between the two sides since the opening night of the season. Relaxing at this point in the season could cost Boston home court advantage.
Memphis was sitting pretty right behind Denver just a few games ago, but after going 2-8 in its last 10 games, Mike Malone’s team now has a 4.5 game cushion at the top. In a talented Eastern Conference, there is no room to go on an extensively long poor run of form, especially with the need to create some sort of confidence and momentum within the team before everyone breaks off for a few days.
Upcoming schedule for the Boston Celtics
Getting up for games leading up to the All-Star break is a mentality this Celtic team needs to take on. Throughout the entire season, Boston has managed to get up for nationally televised games, and that can be no different with the knowledge of a week hiatus around the corner.
Two contests against Detroit, and one at home with the Hornets may not be the most glamorous, but the job needs to be done so the importance of the back end of the campaign becomes less and less a battle for seeding.