Earlier this week, Celtics big man Al Horford referred to the matchups following the All-Star break as “rehearsal games” for what really matters – the playoffs.
As important as it is to win, it’s even more vital to start building good habits at both ends of the floor, the things that become absolutely essential to a team’s pursuit of going deep into the playoffs.
And as much as the Celtics try to stick to the “one day at a time” mantra that all teams talk about incessantly, they are no different than most teams near the top of the standings.
They want to get to the playoffs and are well aware that how they handle themselves and grow in the coming weeks will have a major impact on their postseason success or struggles.
“I believe this is the time where you start doing this now in preparation for the playoffs,” said Jaylen Brown. “I remember with the group we had last year, everybody started making sacrifices mentally, physically, and prepared themselves for the long haul. And now you can see the same thing happening with this team. Especially physically, just knowing what we have to do to be a team that plays in the long, long end part of the season.”
HOMECOMING (OF SORTS) FOR HORFORD
Al Horford is proud of his Dominican Republic roots, but often it’s forgotten that he played his prep basketball in Michigan. The big man and his family moved to Michigan in 2000 where Horford played for Grand Ledge (Mich.) High School and become a four-star recruit before taking his talents to the University of Florida where he helped lead the Gators to back-to-back national championships.
Grand Ledge is about 90 minutes northwest of Detroit.
Despite playing fewer minutes than any of Boston’s starters, there’s no getting around the impact Aron Baynes has had when he plays. This season, the Celtics have a defensive rating of 96.4 when he’s on the floor. That number jumpers to 103.5 for a team-best differential of 7.1.
Celtics fans definitely come away feeling they got their money’s worth when the Green Team plays most nights. This season, Boston has won a league-high five games by one point. The last time they had more one-point wins in a season was the 1995-96 season when they won six games by a single point. The franchise record of one-point victories (seven) was set in the 1981-82 season.
MORE BUCKETS FOR BROWN
When Jaylen Brown scores, good things tend to happen for the Celtics. This season, Boston is 8-1 when he scores at least 18 points.
KYRIE ON THE ROAD
Kyrie Irving loves to get baskets at the TD Garden, but has shown an ability to elevate his scoring even more on the road. His numbers in several categories are indeed better on the road than they are at home. He’s averaging 23.7 points at home, but that number increases to 25.8 on the road. His shooting on the road is a strong 50.3 percent, up from 46.8 at home. And from 3-point range, Irving connects at 42.8 percent rate on the road compared to just 36.6 percent at home.