Including last night's win over the Indiana Pacers, six of the Celtics' next eight games will be played on back-to-back nights - a grueling stretch at a less than ideal point in time of the season. Many have openly brought up the possibility of a post-Christmas hangover, and the schedule might not be helping matters, particularly because the majority of the teams the C's are battling are of a lesser caliber. While some would see that as a good thing, I could easily argue that a lack of motivation could result in some sluggish and uninspired play from Boston.
The C's defeated the Pacers 95-83 last night and find themselves in Detroit tonight, where Kevin Garnett and Charlie Villanueva will meet for the first time since the whole "cancer patient" incident back on November 2. From there, the Celtics will take Thursday off before meeting up with the Hornets back in Boston for a game on Friday. After taking Saturday off, it's off to Toronto to play the Raptors on Sunday before returning home to play the Timberwolves on Monday and having only Tuesday off before hosting the Spurs on Wednesday. While playing the Spurs might be the highlight of the week, the Celtics will be right back in action Friday and Saturday when they host the Raptors and then fly to Chicago to play the Bulls.
If you're keeping track, that's six games in the next nine days, and eight games in the next 12 (including last night's win). That's ridiculous. And technically, it doesn't really get easier from there. After taking on the Bulls next Saturday, the Celtics play the following Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, before having a full two days off on January 15th and 16th. It all adds up to 11 games in 18 days. The C's won't see two straight days off from here until January 15th and 16th. Perhaps this is one of those stretches where we see just how resilient these aging and banged up Celtics really are.
More on the schedule and a brief look at Avery Bradley after the jump.
If you're looking for a silver lining, you might find one in the fact that the Celtics are fortunate enough to have at least some time before two of their harder contests during and at the tail end of this stretch. They have a full day (wow, a whole day!) to rest before playing San Antonio a week from today, and after this stretch is all said and done, the C's will host the Magic on January 17th - directly after that much needed two-day break on the 15th and 16th. So they have those things going for them.
Also, reports have surfaced that Rajon Rondo could return as early as Friday. If not then, does that at least mean there's a greater possibility of him returning within the next week or so (for the record, I only want him returning if he's 100% or as close to it as humanly possible at this point)? Having him back and extending the bench a little bit certainly wouldn't hurt over these next few weeks.
Bradley Looking Better?
I'll admit off the top that it's difficult to really judge Avery Bradley as a player, given the limited court time he's seen thus far this season. But recently, due to the absence of Rajon Rondo, Bradley's had to provide spot minutes here and there, and some stints have been (expectedly) better than others.
There have been the poorer showings, such as the train wreck against the Atlanta Hawks on December 16 when he was thoroughly outplayed by Jeff Teague on both sides of the ball. Fortunately, that did not qualify as the worst four-minute stint for a Celtic this year. Shelden Williams's performance in Game 2 of the NBA Finals last season still takes the cake.
But in addition to the showings when he's very much looked like a rookie, there have been performances where his on-the-ball defense has caught our attention, such as against Louis Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers on December 22, and last night against T.J. Ford of the Indiana Pacers. Against Williams, Bradley made an impressive steal and turned it into a fastbreak layup of his own. And last night, with 11:34 to play in the second quarter, Bradley absolutely smothered Ford on the left wing, matching every one of Ford's attempts to shed him with impressive foot speed and lateral movement. The result of the play was Ford forcing a pass to Solomon Jones who had to hoist a rushed jumper as the shot clock was expiring.
What's important for Bradley now, in these minutes, is that he doesn't hurt the team in any way, by turning the ball over or missing key assignments and rotations on defense, and for the most part, he's been alright in those areas. He's committed just one turnover in his last five games. As for his offense, it's still unclear what his strengths are, but at the very least, we're seeing consistent flashes of the defensive reputation that followed him out of Texas and into the NBA Draft. Last night was another example of that, and hopefully we'll see more of them until Rondo makes his return (and Bradley's already limited minutes most likely disappear entirely).