Tonight ends the Celtics' early-season road gauntlet...— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) December 30, 2016
Celtics: Days on the road
All that travel and time away from home can exhausting for the players, but in this case the Celtics marched through and came out of their gauntlet to end the year with an impressive 10-6 record in the month of December. In fact, according to ESPN the Celtics sit at 6th in the entire NBA in RPI (Rating Percentage Index):
RPI rankings factor not only wins and losses, but the strength-of-schedule each team has played. It's how the NCAA figures it's seeding for their March Madness brackets in the spring.
Aside from the travel there's another issue that arises with all that time on the road - practices come few and far between. It's difficult for Brad Stevens to make adjustments to his system, or address areas of need when there's no time to work them out on the court. This comment from Stevens came just before their game against Cleveland last Thursday:
Brad Stevens says the C's currently don't stay on the court for shootaround or practice for more than 30-45 mins due to crazy travel sched.— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) December 29, 2016
The core of this team has played together for quite some time, so it's probably easier for Brad to make adjustments on the fly without being able to spend much time on the practice floor than it is for some coaches. Even the new additions to the lineup Al Horford and Gerald Green are seasoned vets who can probably pick things up quicker than most.
Well now that's all in the rear-view because the Celtics should have plenty of time to practice with the very friendly schedule that lies ahead. The month of January looks to be a great opportunity for the C's to make a run at Toronto for the number two seat in the East, and create some distance between the other teams behind them heading into the All-Star break:
Boston’s in great position to make a run. I count only 8 tough games here, and several are teams they’ve done great against heads-up. pic.twitter.com/iuGaqNbWzw— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 31, 2016
Of the current Eastern conference playoff teams, Boston has the most home games remaining this season:
HOME GAMES REMAINING –NBA EAST TOP 8— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) December 30, 2016
New York 25
With three days off since Isaiah's monster 52-point effort on Friday the Celtics will take on the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at the Garden. Look for the C's to put the pedal to the floor in the month of January and beyond heading towards the trade deadline (Feb. 23rd). It's going to be very interesting to see what Danny Ainge does before the deadline if this team is really rolling.
Does adding a rebounder that we wouldn't necessarily have to break the bank for (think Andrew Bogut/ Nerlens Noel) help shore up the interior enough to put the C's ahead of Toronto and a formidable opponent for Cleveland without mortgaging the future? A deal for Paul Millsap would be an interesting option. Or will he find a deal for a superstar that would make this team look drastically different?
It's gonna be a tough call for 'Trader Danny' if the Celtics really rip through this upcoming stretch. Although I'd certainly break the bank for a megastar, I'm not opposed to just adding a big man and keeping those Brooklyn picks, the 2017 one in particular - especially with Brooklyn sitting at the bottom of the league right now.
Photo Credit - Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 1/02/2017 11:47:00 AM Tweet Edit