The Boston Celtics have spent a good chunk of the season playing away from the TD Garden which as we’ve seen, hasn’t been a bad thing.
Boston has an 11-3 road record this season, and are just one of three teams (Houston and Golden State) with double-digit road wins this season.
And while there’s no such thing as a given, the Celtics have to feel pretty good about their chances of getting road win No. 12 tonight against the Chicago Bulls (5-20) who are at the opposite end of the success spectrum this season.
Indeed, the Bulls – owners of the worst record in the NBA now – are a radically different team from the one that jumped out to a 2-0 series lead in their first-round playoff series last spring before the Celtics bounced back to win the next four to close out the series and eventually advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
The key in that series for the Celtics was their ability to win on the road (it didn’t hurt their chances that Rajon Rondo, a key to Chicago winning Games 1 and 2 in Boston, was unable to play in the last four games of the series due to injury).
But as good as that team was, this season’s Celtics team seems more equipped to find success on the road in part because they have so many interchangeable parts up and down the roster.
And just as important, there’s more of a matter-of-fact mindset to what they do rather than feeling the need to prove themselves in comparison to other elite teams in the NBA.
Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.
There has been a lot of talk about Jayson Tatum’s breakout rookie season, but the Bulls have a star on the rise as well from the 2017 NBA draft class in Lauri Markkanen. Tatum leads the NBA – not just rookies, but the entire league – in 3-point shooting (51.8 percent) and averages 14 points per game. Markkanen, draft with the seventh overall pick by Minnesota (but traded to Chicago as part of the Jimmy Butler deal), averages 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds which ranks fifth and second, respectively, among rookies.
GOING BACK TO BACK
This will be Boston’s fourth back-to-back this season. On the second night, the Celtics are 2-1 with the lone loss being Oct. 18 against Milwaukee which was the second game of the season along with the first game for Boston without Gordon Hayward following his season-ending left ankle injury.
UP AND DOWN SHOOTING
There’s a certain ebb and flow all teams are looking for with their offense, but this is not what the Celtics had in mind when talking about shooting. After failing to shoot 50 percent or better in their first 20 games, the Celtics strung together five straight in which they reached the 50 percent or better mark. However, they are back to how they began the season, shooting less than 50 percent in each of their last three games.
TATUM CLIMBING THE CHARTS
The 6-foot-8 rookie has scored in double figures 16 straight games. The last first-year player for Boston to have that many consecutive double-digit scoring games was Antoine Walker who reeled off 20 in a row in 1997.
There’s an obsession almost with fans when it comes to Marcus Smart and his shooting. But the stat that fans really need to keep an eye on is his assists total. Boston has a 13-1 record this season when Smart tallies five or more assists.