Celtics out of practice after breakneck schedule


Celtics out of practice after breakneck schedule

BOSTON – Without giving it much thought, the Boston Celtics have gone from game to game with little thought or time for anything beyond that.

Now with their schedule easing up to where they can blend in more practice days along with game preparation, it sounds like a simple transition, but . . . 

“We gotta re-learn that to make that part of your daily way,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We need to maximize this time. We need to be building to become better and better down the road. So that’s what you utilize this time for.”

Boston will get plenty of time to work on its practice game this week with the team leaving for London today for a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

The Celtics will get two practice days in before facing the Sixers, and won’t play again until they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 16 which will likely afford them at least another day or two of practice.

You would be hard-pressed to find another Celtic who has been looking forward to this stretch of the season more than Kyrie Irving who is well aware of how different things will be schedule-wise for the Celtics going forward. 

The Celtics played their first 41 games in 70 days. The next 41 games will cover 99 days.

“That’s a hell of a difference,” Irving said.

Getting through those first 41 games came down to one thing for Irving.

“Just survival, man; just survival,” Irving said. “You learn a lot about your body and your mind. You can always kind of figure that stuff out. But it’s how consistent do you want to be with that. That’s the mark of good and great teams, that separation, how much are you willing to sacrifice and give of yourself, being a professional every single moment and not taking anything for granted. It’s a true test, but if you really want it, dive into it.”

And to the Celtics’ credit, their ability to not only play through a daunting schedule but thrive in it, is commendable.

Boston (33-10) has won six in a row which is the longest current winning streak on top of having the best record in the Eastern Conference.

And for rookies like Semi Ojeleye, this impending shifting down of the schedule is just the latest learning experience for him and his fellow first-year players.

“The thing is, you have to stay ready regardless of the schedule,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “Because as you see with our team, you never know when your opportunity is coming.”

Or how to shift from lots of games to more of a balancing act with games and practice.

It sounds simple but it’s one more thing that players, particularly young ones, have to adapt to in order to get the most out of practice time and added preparation they will have in the second half of this season to get ready for games.

“The older guys have been through this. They know how to go about it,” Stevens said. “They know every minute is planned to the nth degree. Sometimes young guys have to be brought up to speed on that stuff. That’s something that’s always going to be an emphasis.”


Celtics hope West Coast swings momentum back in their favor


Celtics hope West Coast swings momentum back in their favor

LOS ANGELES – In the aftermath of Boston’s 103-95 loss to Orlando, the Boston Celtics did their best to maintain their “on to the next one” mentality.

It’s pretty easy to do when the wins pile up like New England snowbanks.

But that’s not where this team is right now … not even close.

They have lost three in a row for the first time this season, which in itself isn’t all that big a deal.

But it’s how the losses have come about.

The 116-13 overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday had a lot to do with a monster game by Anthony Davis. And Boston's 89-80 loss to Philadelphia had more to do with an anemic offense. On Sunday, it was one horrific third quarter of play (Boston was outscored 32-12 in the third) that dwarfed the other three.

The bottom line is simple: the Celtics are not playing good basketball and unlike earlier stretches when that was the case, the pathway to victory of late has been a dead end.

Now comes another challenge – taking their talents out West for four games beginning with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown said his approach to this upcoming trip isn’t all that different than how he has approached previous games.

“Look at the film, see how we can play better, like we always do, win or lose, and try and come out and get a ‘W,’” Brown said.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments.

"One game at a time; one meeting at a time,” Stevens said. “Everything else, we’ll figure out how to play better.”

The Celtics (34-13) are in no position to approach any of these games, even against the struggling Lakers (17-29), as a matchup they can just show up and victory will fall in their lap.

“Once we get into games, we have to understand teams are coming for us, said Al Horford. “I’ve felt like we handled it okay throughout the season, but it’s even more evident now.”

Indeed, the Celtics have been among the teams in not just the East but the NBA, that most of the league’s teams have been trying to catch up to this season.

Even with three straight losses, Boston still has a two-game lead in East over Toronto (31-14) and have the third-best overall record in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors (37-10) and Houston Rockets (32-12).

And while Boston will surely be challenged during its four-game trip out West, the Celtics have every reason to believe they will find success most nights.

For starters, Boston has a 12-3 record against the Western Conference this season  - tops among all teams in the East - which includes wins over the top five teams (Golden State; Houston; San Antonio; Minnesota and Oklahoma City) in the Western Conference.

And of the four teams on the docket – Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State and Denver – Boston has a perfect 3-0 record with the only team they have yet to play being the Clippers.

I asked Kyrie Irving how does the three-game losing streak change the mindset of the Celtics heading out West.

“It definitely puts a huge emphasis on the next game,” he said. “What we have to do to put ourselves in great position to win at the end of the day. We’re going to be playing against some hungry teams out in the Western Conference. They’ve come in here and played pretty well against us except for the Clippers. So, this is great for a young developing team like we have. And it’s fun. You can learn so much more about each other. Not that we didn’t learn anything after these last three losses, but going on the road is a test.”


Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes


Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes

Gordon Hayward had just about the most horrific debut any player could imagine.

We won't get into the details again, but it left many wondering the Celtics would even recover emotionally to compete in the East.

Now it's clear they are more than prepared to make some noise in the playoffs.

The most important recovery is Hayward's and tonight fans scrolled through social media to see encouraging progress.

Still can’t beat me... 🤷🏻‍♀️

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