Celtics

Celtics

AMHERST -- Throughout the course of an NBA season, there will be ample opportunities for a team to bond. We saw one prior to Tuesday night’s preseason game against Philadelphia, when Boston Celtics players locked arms during the National Anthem as a sign of unity during the growing social unrest that’s sweeping the country. 
 
Players will get another opportunity to build off that -- and other bonding experiences thus far in training camp -- as they hit the road to play the Charlotte Hornets in Greensboro, N.C. on Thursday. 
 
Although Tuesday’s 92-89 preseason loss to Philadelphia at the Mullins Center on UMass-Amherst’s campus was technically a “road” game (Philadelphia was officially the home team), it really wasn’t. Every time they've stepped on the floor thus far this season, they have been greeted by a cascade of cheers. A number of players have managed to feed off that during games. 
 
But Thursday night’s game against the Hornets will be different. 
 
Road success will be one of the many factors that will contribute to the success or struggles the Celtics experience this season. 
 
Under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens, the Celtics have been on a steady level of improvement in several areas, which includes road success. 
 
During his rookie season in 2013-14, the Celtics won just nine road games. He followed that up by more than doubling the team’s road win total from the previous season, with 19. And last season they improved to 20-21 on the road. 
 
The next step for this group will be to finish this regular season with a winning road record, something the Celtics have not done since 2010-11. 
 
And while all the Celtics have played in front of road crowds before, every season brings about a different team with a slightly different identity regardless of how many of the pieces remain the same. 
 
Winning on the road often comes down to a team’s ability to execute in the closing moments of games. That's where, more likely than not, the departure of Evan Turner will be most pronounced for the Celtics. 
 
They have players who can help fill that void, but doing takes time and maybe just as important, opportunities. 
 
Putting teams away on the road, regardless of whether it’s the preseason or not, is a good litmus test for where a team stands in that regard and what they need to do in order to get better going forward. 
 
That’s why this first real road game for the Celtics has value beyond the usual player development and improvement that playing games provides. And while it may not count in the grand scheme of things as far as wins and losses, there's much to gain with a good showing in front of fans that don’t have their back.
 
“It gets you ready; on the road, hostile environment as such where it’s not your home court,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “You don’t know if your fans will be there or be outnumbered. Your team learns how to come together.”