After a difficult homestand, a California road trip out west, dotting across the country with no more than two games in a row back at the Garden, and a three-game sweep of a road trip to Texas and Miami, the Celtics are finally back in Boston for a lengthy stretch on the parquet.
As of Thursday night, the team is tied for the most home wins (20-1) and road victories (15-9). Do the math and you’ll notice that they’ve played three more games away from TD Garden and that doesn’t even play a part in the calculus that ranks the Celtics with the second or fourth most difficult schedule so far. In the East, they’ve got a 4-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks and five games over the Philadelphia 76ers.
For what it’s worth, here’s the seven-game homestand that leads into and extends past the NBA trade deadline on February 6th and where our Eastern Conference rivals will be as well:
|at Trail Blazers
The Celtics can’t exactly clinch the #1 seed over the next two weeks, but if they can muster the same mojo dojo casa house magic that has led to a nearly undefeated record at TD while the Bucks adjust to Doc Rivers and Philly takes their show on the road, it could give them a comfortable cushion heading into the All-Star Weekend break.
Boston currently boasts the second-best offense and defense and the only team with a double-digit net rating of 10.2. However, break it down and they’re even nastier in front of the Garden crowd. Their road offensive rating of 118.1 points per 100 possessions jumps up to 123.7; their vice grip defense tightens from 112.0 to 108.7. They shoot better from behind the arc (40.5% vs. 36.1%) and are five points better from the free throw line.
And while banking wins at the Garden and finding areas to improve will be the priorities, there will be some focus on what Brad Stevens does at the deadline. Conventional thinking would say that the Celtics President of Basketball Operations shouldn’t mess with a good thing, but this week has proven that winning doesn’t exactly cure all. If you can get better, whether that’s bringing in former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers or former Celtic Terry Rozier, you make a move.
But with Boston’s limited resources, that trade might not materialize. More likely is either finding a player to fill the Grant Williams $6.2 million TPE or waiting until the buyout market opens after the deadline.
Forty-five games into the season, the Celtics have a good feel of what they’ve got. Barring an injury, how they perform over the next four games against potential playoff teams won’t really sway their deadline decisions one way or another. However, in these doldrums of the long 82-game NBA schedule, teams — contending teams — can fortify their position. Whether by improving their record and playoff standing or finding a piece (not necessarily a missing piece), this is yet another important block of games towards Banner 18.