BOSTON – Last season, the Boston Celtics were able to advance to the Eastern Conference finals in part because they had home court advantage in every playoff series before ultimately bowing out to a LeBron James-led Cleveland team.
The foundation for having home court advantage in the playoffs, lies in establishing an edge at home during the regular season.
Which is why Boston’s current two-game skid is indeed something for the Celtics to worry about.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens makes a point of keeping is team focused in the moment, never looking too far down the road or over their shoulder.
Well at the moment, his team needs to re-establish itself at home not only to improve upon their East-leading record, but also continue to stack up wins so that when the postseason arrives they will once again have home court advantage.
“It’s disappointing anytime to drop a game,” Stevens said. “But certainly, drop two in a row at home adds to that.”
While it’s certainly not ideal, Boston’s 18-7 record at home this season still ranks among the top teams in the East.
Still, there’s definitely room to grow on several fronts for Boston.
Winning at home?
That’s one of them.
“At the end of the day, the reality is we’re not a 34-12 team by many metrics other than we figured out a way to win 34 out of 46 games,” Stevens said. “We have to be a lot better if we want to continue to move forward with this.”
Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into today’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic.
Despite the record, the Celtics have not played very good basketball lately. And the bad games start with – you guess it – the way they open games. Boston has not won the first quarter since their Jan. 3 win over Cleveland. In fact, the Celtics have been outscored in nine of their last 16 quarters of play.
BEATING THE BAD ONES
Part of being an elite team involves doing more than just knocking off the best teams. It also requires handling the not-so-great clubs, something the Celtics have done a good job with this season. They come into today’s game against Orlando with an impressive 17-3 record against teams below-.500 teams this season.
LIVE (AND DIE) BY THE THREE-POINTER
We know the three-point shot is a key component to the Boston Celtics offensively, evident by them ranking sixth in the NBA this season with 31.5 taken per game. But relying too heavily on the 3-point shot has transformed Boston from an elite team, to one that’s just barely above-.500.
Consider this: When the Celtics take more than 40 percent of their shots from 3-point range, they are just 8-6 this season. In their last two games – both losses - the Celtics took 45.1 percent of their shots from 3-point range.
IN THE CLUTCH
You never plan on games being decided in the final minute or so of play, but the Celtics like their chances if the does come to that. This season, they have won 20 “clutch” games (those within five points in the final five minutes of play) this season which is tops in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic are at the near-opposite end of that spectrum, ranking 26th in the NBA with seven wins this season falling under the “clutch” category.
NO AFFLALO TODAY
Aron Afflalo will not be with the Magic today as he serves the second of a two-game suspension for fighting Minnesota forward Nemanja Bjelica on a play which included Afflalo punching Bjelica in the head on Tuesday.