After receiving the devastating news that star point guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season with a torn right ACL, the Boston Celtics have to pull it together in February and keep their season alive.
February will prove to be a tough month for the Celtics, as they will spend most of their time of the west coast. Boston has to play the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers, who will both give a Celtics team that's barely above water a hard time. Boston also faces rival Los Angeles Lakers twice in February.
The ultimate test for the Celtics will be the five-game road trip to close out the month. If the Celtics can win at least three of those games, the trip will be a success. However, if the team succumbs to fatigue, it will be difficult to pick up the pieces in March.
February is the month that the Celtics need to prove they are still a worthy team, even without their best player.
Friday, February 1 vs. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic—minus Glen "Big Baby" Davis—will have trouble against the Celtics in Boston. Boston has won six consecutive regular-season games over Orlando, a streak that started January 17, 2011. This game will be no different, especially considering the Magic's current seven-game losing streak. Prediction: Boston wins.
Sunday, Feb. 3 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are one of the hottest teams in the West. With Chris Paul out with a knee injury and Rajon Rondo out with a torn ACL, both teams are without their starting point guard. However, last time Boston faced the Clippers, they were blown out 106-77. Unlike the Celtics, the Clippers' bench can hold their own on offense, which will be the deciding factor in this game. Prediction: Boston loses.
Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Toronto Raptors
The Celtics won their first matchup against the Raptors back in November. However, that was before Toronto traded Jose Calderon and Ed Davis for Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi. The Celtics are still the better overall team, but swingman Gay is averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 rebounds this season. If Boston wants to win this game, they have to contain him with their lockdown defense. Prediction: Boston wins.
Thursday, Feb. 7 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Classic rivals Lakers and Celtics will meet for the first time this season. While the Lakers have surprisingly fell short of expectations, they have started to turn things around now that Kobe Bryant is averaging 12 assists over the last four games. The showdown at the Garden will be close, but ultimately, the Celtics will come out with a win. Prediction: Boston wins.
Sunday, February 10 vs. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are hot right now. They finished the month of January with a 12 - 3 record and show no signs of slowing down. Denver is second overall in rebounds per game (45.5), while Boston is only 29th (39.6). Ultimately, Boston's lack of rebounding will be the reason for their defeat. Prediction: Boston loses.
Monday, February 11 at Charlotte Bobcats
There is no good reason why the Celtics should lose to the Bobcats. Boston won their last matchup, 100 - 89, on January 14. The key to an easy win for the Celtics is to dominate the paint and control the tempo of the offense. Prediction: Boston wins.
Wednesday, February 13 vs Chicago Bulls
This matchup will test Boston's durability without Rajon Rondo. The Bulls also lost their point guard to a torn ACL, but Derrick Rose is increasingly close to a return. Boston is 1 - 2 against Chicago this season, and it would be good for the Celtics to tie up the series. In order to do so, Boston's bench needs to step up. Nate Robinson has been on fire lately, and Boston needs to counter his production with their own secondary unit. Prediction: Boston loses.
Tuesday, February 19 at Denver Nuggets
The second meeting between these two teams will go differently than the first. After the All-Star break, the Celtics should be refocused on making the playoffs and keeping their season alive. Boston's heart and drive will propel them past the Nuggets in this game, the first of a five-game road trip. Prediction: Boston wins.
Wednesday, February 20 at Los Angeles Lakers
The Celtics will come into Staples Center and shock the Lakers with a blowout win. While Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will lead the pack, Boston's guards will be the key to a win. The Lakers aren't a very fast team. If Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee can set the tone for both defense and offense, the Lakers won't be able to keep up. Prediction: Boston wins.
Friday, February 22 at Phoenix Suns
The Celtics must contain Goran Dragic, who leads the Suns in points, assists and steals. Without a true point guard, Boston could struggle with running the paint. However, if they focus on their defense, a win shouldn't be difficult against the subpar Suns. Prediction: Boston wins.
Sunday, February 24 at Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers and Celtics are pretty evenly matched. In the fourth game of a five-game road trip, the Celtics' production might start to decline. This is where they will miss Rajon Rondo, who kept the pace of the game where it needed to be. In the end, LaMarcus Aldridge and company will prove to be too much for the Celtics. Prediction: Boston loses.
Monday, February 25 at Utah Jazz
It is important for the Celtics to close out the month of February with a win. This game will be a tough one—not because the Jazz are a terrific team, but because this will be the Celtics' fifth consecutive game on the road. Without much rest after the game in Portland, the Celtics will ultimately lose simply due to fatigue. Prediction: Boston loses.