The Boston Celtics have not been on the road for more than three games since the beginning of January. Capturing a win against a bottom-half Western Conference team was paramount before heading out on a road trip that features six games within a 10-day span. With six players scoring in double figures led by Jayson Tatum, the Celtics avoided their fourth straight loss for the first time during 2022/23 campaign.
Since the All-Star break, the energy around the team has shifted in the wrong direction. A lack of defensive intensity combined with an uncharacteristic complacency has led Boston to being two whole games behind the Bucks for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed as of this writing. With Milwaukee taking on the likes of Phoenix, and Sacramento on the road, the Cs need to be able to capitalize immediately if Mike Budenholzer’s team slips up.
Joe Mazzulla’s men are taking on just two teams with a current record that is over .500 over the next week and a half. As the team with the current best road record along with the Knicks and Bucks, the Cs should be able to take care of these teams despite being away from their home floor. So far this season, the Celtics have the second-best net rating away from Beantown, behind only the Philadelphia 76ers.
Being able to win on the road is essential in the postseason, and with just three more following this stretch, this is a chance to build up that confidence away from the TD Garden. The Boston Celtics rediscovered their defensive identity against Portland, making Damian Lillard work for every basket in the halfcourt. After knocking down two threes in the first quarter, Lillard was unable to convert on any after that. Keeping a team under 95 points is quite an accomplishment considering how much the Cs have struggled to prevent opponents from scoring as of late.
Where this trip is placed in the schedule and Boston’s relatively simple run of games following it, these next six games could very well decide if the Eastern Conference playoffs will run through TD Garden. Despite the Cs prolific record away from home, Mazzulla’s squad has lost its previous two which included a dismal shooting display at Madison Square Garden, and a collapse in Cleveland.
The Boston Celtics need to channel inner “road warrior” with vital stretch of games away from TD Garden
In the previous trip in which Boston headed out on the west coast, the Celtics fell short against both Denver and Oklahoma City before coming together and stringing nine consecutive wins off. The only team on this trip that Boston has not seen this season is Danny Ainge’s Utah Jazz. The green in fact have not defeated Utah in Salt Lake City since February 2020. A daunting Portland to Utah back-to-back is not a simple task.
Last season, Ime Udoka’s Boston Celtics had a back to back starting in Utah and then going to Portland in which they split in early December. Boston then concludes its trip in the “vibrant” city of Sacramento, California. The Cs have two days off in northern California before they encounter the league’s biggest surprise of the season, Mike Brown’s Kings at Golden 1 Center.
Extended road trips away from home are difficult on both the mind and body. We are going to learn a whole lot about this team in the next week and a half. We will find out answers to what Grant Williams’ role is at the moment and what kind of an impact Robert Williams III is going to have coming back from a short-term injury. Malcolm Brogdon said he expects his team to go unbeaten, but realistically four or more wins out of the six contests should be considered a successful trip.
They will be tested for sure. The triumph over Portland decreases the desperation aspect of snapping a streak on the road. Road trips can bring up a number of challenges, but it is also a time for a group of guys to continue to build that sort of chemistry that is necessary to build a consistent winning culture. By the end of the trip, the Cs will have traveled over 6,200 miles from Boston to its conclusion in the Sacramento Valley.
It all starts in Atlanta on Saturday night. Many have begun to second guess this Celtics team given their form as of late. This is an opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the NBA with just nine games left when the Cs land back in Boston.