Celtics game vs. Raptors has potential impact on short and long-term


Celtics game vs. Raptors has potential impact on short and long-term

BOSTON – Last week’s victory over Houston was undoubtedly a signature win for the Boston Celtics, knocking off the team with the NBA’s third-best record at the time.

As important as that game was for their psyche, it’s hard to imagine Wednesday night’s game against Toronto doesn’t hold a similar place in terms of its potential impact and implications for both the short and long-term.

Boston (30-18) comes in with a half-game lead over the Raptors (30-19) for the second-best record in the East.

These are the two teams most likely to finish second in the East by Feb. 5, which means the second-place coaching staff (unless it’s Cleveland which seems unlikely) will coach the East All-Stars on Feb. 19 in New Orleans.

Cleveland will likely finish with the best record in the East, but their coaching staff isn’t eligible to coach this year because Cavs head coach and ex-Celtics assistant Tyronn Lue coached the East All-Star team last season and NBA rules prohibit coaches from coaching the all-stars in back-to-back years.

 Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been hit with a barrage of questions about the All-Star game and potentially coaching in it.

And he consistently tells anyone listening that his focus remains squarely on Boston’s improvement going forward, particularly against the Raptors who have won each of the two regular season matchups.  

“I’d like to keep getting better and do our best to play well,” Stevens said. “We’ve played really well at times, the two times we played them, but not well enough to win.”

And while Stevens isn’t getting caught up in the magnitude of Wednesday’s game, his players aren’t the least bit coy about addressing its significance to them.

“It’s important for us,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “We’ve lost twice to them already this year. Down the road these games matter for us. If we can take care of the game tomorrow … that’s important for us as far as seeding.”

There’s plenty of time left before that becomes an issue, but Bradley is right in acknowledging how they perform now can have a significant impact on how they play in the postseason and maybe just as significant, who the opponent winds up being.

Last season the Celtics finished with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference but there was just one problem: they were joined by three other teams with an identical record.

Once the tie-breaking dust settled, Boston wound up as a fifth-seed taking on the fourth-seeded Atlanta Hawks who put away the Celtics in six games.

Players vividly remember how disappointing it was to have such a breakout season and, because of a few bad losses late in the season, found themselves beginning their postseason journey on the road.

But this season, they have bigger, grander expectations for themselves and their postseason journey.

And while tonight’s game won’t determine the fate of their season, it’s a big game because of its potential in terms of improving their record but also as players mentioned earlier, potentially help position them better for the postseason.

“It’s a game we need,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “Another game that we can have under our belt as a win against a team we dominated for three quarters and they came out and destroyed us in the fourth and won the game. We owe these guys.”

Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

File Photo

Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

There hasn't been all positive news surrounding Gordon Hayward as of late.

The Celtics have been shooting down rumors of Hayward returning this season. Recent news has detailed a minor setback in his recovery.

But it's always good to see the C's superstar up early crushing a workout in the weightroom.

We might not see him back in 2018, but his dedication during recovery is something to admire.


Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

AP Photo

Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

It seems all season we’ve talked about the Boston Celtics overcoming adversity, whether it be a bad injury to a key player or a blown assignment leading to a loss.

Nowhere is this more apparent than their play on the road this season which ranks among the best in the NBA.

The Celtics will look to continue on their road warrior-like ways tonight at New Orleans, a team that’s fighting for playoff position in the tighter-than-usual Western Conference.

In recent years, the terrain has been rough for teams from the East venturing into Western Conference territory.

For this year’s Celtics?

Not so much.

Boston comes into tonight’s game with a 17-7 record against Western Conference teams, tops among all teams in the East.

And while Boston has eight road games left this season, they are on pace to finish with one of the best road records in franchise history.

Currently 24-9 away from the TD Garden (tops in the East, third overall in the NBA), that’s a winning percentage of .727 which is the fourth-highest in franchise history.

Here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on when the Boston Celtics take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.


It’s a given that Al Horford will spend time defending Anthony Davis tonight. And while Davis will likely have a strong night scoring the ball, you can count on Horford making it extremely tough on him. When the two teams met on Jan. 16, Davis was 8-for-19 shooting for 16 points in 52 possessions when defended by Horford. For the game, Davis had 45 points on 16-for-34 shooting.


We’ve seen “Playoff" Rondo and “National TV" Rondo deliver some impressive performances in the past. What will we see from “Well-Rested” Rondo? The Pelicans gave the ex-Celtic the night off on Saturday as to not play him in back-to-back games. Of the two games, it made sense to sit him against the Rockets and have him ready to roll against a Boston Celtics team that will not have its full complement of players available.


Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had some choice words about the officiating in New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday that he clearly felt cost his team a better chance at winning. The only cost in play now is how big will the check be that he’ll pay the league for his comments about the officiating. His issue was that Anthony Davis doesn’t get enough calls based on the physical abuse he takes per game. Davis ranks fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts (7.8) per game, but only had four attempts against the Rockets. It’ll be worth watching whether the Pelicans, 16th in the league in free throw attempts (21.4) per game, will get to the line significantly more or less than their season average.


One of the keys to Boston’s improved play since returning to the floor since the all-star break, has been their ability to begin games with strong play. Boston has outscored their opponent in the first quarter each of the last eight games, and 10 of 11. In addition, Boston has been ahead at the half in each of their 10 games since the all-star break, which comes on the heels of trailing at the half in the seven games prior to the break.


Jayson Tatum has been one of the most impactful rookies in the NBA this season which will likely land him a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie first or second team. One of the strengths of Tatum has been his durability, evident by him being one of just two first-year players to appear in each of his team’s games played this season. He is joined by Memphis’ Dillon Brooks.