The Boston Celtics used a great road trip to get their season back on track
The Boston Celtics have had an inconsistent and injury riddled season. They have not lived up to the preseason hype, and were clearly behind the two top teams in the East in the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics were not a disaster. They were holding their own around the three seed, but they struggled to put together multiple quality wins and go on a run that could vault them up the standings.
The Celtics hit their season low when Isaiah Thomas went out with an injury. They could not close games in the fourth quarter, and missed out on multiple opportunities to secure significant victories against the Raptors and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With Thomas retiring to the lineup and a three game road trip up in the schedule, the Celtics knew they had no rmoe excuses and it was time for them to start asserting their will in the Eastern Conference, and that is exactly what they have done. While it is only a three game stretch and they need to continue to build on it, the Celtics have easily been at their best during this road trip. The Celtics are finally looking like the balanced team that was expected, and with their fourth quarter closer back, they are becoming one of the most dangerous fourth quarter teams in the league.
The Celtics began this road trip coming off of a solid victory against the Charlotte Hornets. Thomas’ first game back in the lineup was a defensive struggle, but the Celtics were able to put their season long three game losing streak behind them, but they had three challenging games on the road coming up. The Celtics knew they were going to be tested, and they wasted no time leaning on Thomas with him back in the lineup.
More from Hardwood Houdini
The offense looked stronger against the Miami Heat, and they had a more commanding victory. The Celtics have far too many games this season where they struggle to get separation from inferior teams. Hassan Whiteside caused problems on the boards, but they were able to control the game throughout and secure that double digit victory. The Heat were the weakest team on the road trip and they did exactly what they needed to do to start a much needed winning streak.
Up next was the game of the year, and a potential turning point in the season. With a top defense in the Memphis Grizzlies coming up, things looked bleak as they trailed by almost 20 points. Things were not going in Boston’s favor, and they were facing one of the most daunting tasks of the season. Then, Thomas happened. His career night willed the Celtics back into the game and then closed it out in overtime. He had a response for anything the Grizzles could throw at the Celtics to try and close the game, and he did it in every way possible. Seven three pointers, and 17 free throws made that one of the most unique offensive performances in the NBA this season, and it came exactly when the Celtics needed it.
Then to finish off the road trip the Celtics visited a middle of the pack Indiana Pacers team. While they are far from top contenders in the East, they have a superstar in Paul George that can destroy any game. Fortunately, the Celtics did not need the same level of heroics from Thomas to close out the game. Jae Crowder set the tone on defense with Thomas controlling everything on offense. It may have been a bit closer than it should have but the Celtics were in firm control for almost the entire game, and were quite clearly the superior team throughout.
The Celtics are now riding a four game winning streak and have a great opportunity to gain some ground in the standings with 12 of the next 17 at home. For a team that was once considered a disappointment on both ends of the court, the Celtics are becoming one of the most balanced teams in the league, and that is exactly what we have seen during this road trip.
The Celtics are now in the fringe of being in the top 10 for both offensive and defensive efficiency, and they should continue to improve. They have done a phenomenal job while at full strength, and this road trip has made them one of the most successful road teams in the league.
The Celtics are now in a position to go on the kind of run that will make everyone forget about the rough start to the season. They have a lot of work to do and it will not start out easy with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder coming into Boston. That being said, the Celtics are getting better and better on both ends of the court and now they have all the momentum and confidence they need to build on.