The C's are primed for more.
The first half of the season was riddled with pits and falls for the Boston Celtics. Yet they closed it out playing their best basketball of the season, winning eight of their last nine games.
In the second half, expect to see much of the same. Maybe even better.
What head coach Doc Rivers has done with this team is nothing short of spectacular.
If losing Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa to season-ending injuries was not enough, throw in the Celtics’ lack of depth at critical positions. They have only three guards—none that are a true point guard—and the team’s only option at center is 36-year-old Kevin Garnett—a power forward for the vast majority of his 17-year career.
Not to mention, Boston only has 10 healthy players on the roster.
That’s a proven recipe for disaster.
Instead, Rivers has taken it and mixed it up and conjured up one heck of a masterpiece.
Sure, the Celtics still have a handful of flaws, but what else would you expect from a team as depleted as them?
But somehow, through it all, Boston stands at 28-24 and only 3.5 games out of third place in the Eastern Conference.
And with 30 games left in the regular season, they’re only just beginning.
Rivers hasn't had much to smile about on the road this season.
With a daunting five-game road trip ahead, it’s easy to expect the Celtics to stumble out of the gates.
They have lost four of their last five games away from Boston and are 8-15 overall—the worst mark among the 16 league teams currently in playoff position.
Throw in the fact that these next five contests will be played in the span of seven days, and the daunting just became the impossible.
However, it might not be as bad as it looks.
In fact, with four out of the five opponents currently slumping, it might actually turn out to be a favorable stretch for the Celtics.
The Denver Nuggets have lost three straight games. The Phoenix Suns have dropped four in a row and six of their last seven. The Portland Trail Blazers are losers of three straight games. The Los Angeles Lakers have fallen short in three of their last five.
There’s a very good chance that Boston can come out of this with at least four wins.
The only real concern could be the Nuggets, who haven’t lost in Denver since Jan. 18. They have won seven straight games since.
A former Butler standout, Mack is a possible solution to the C's depth at guard.
Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry are the Celtics only options at guard right now.
In Rondo’s absence, only Terry has stepped up, averaging 13.1 points and 3.7 assists per game over his last nine games.
However, this lack of production from the guard position is an issue that has plagued Boston all season long. The team currently holds a subpar 10.6 PER from the position. (via 82games.com)
According to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy, help might be on the way soon:
The Celtics are reportedly on the verge of signing a guard to a 10-day contract—a hedge in case a more desirable player is available in another two weeks—though management was still sifting through possibilities.
In 19 games for the Celtics D-League affiliate, Mack has averaged 19.7 points, 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. He’s also shot 46.1 percent from the floor while connecting on 38.1 percent of his attempts from long distance.
The 32-year-old, who has played on six different teams, has averaged 6.4 points and 2.1 assists per game throughout his 11 years in the league. He has shot at a career clip of 38.8 percent from the floor and 35 percent from downtown.
Former Celtic Delonte West is also someone being looked at, according to GM Danny Ainge. (via Celtics Hub’s Brian Robb)
However, don’t expect such a move to happen. Boston declined to re-sign him last time around, opting for veteran Keyon Dooling instead.
Averaging 9.7 points and 3.6 assists per game over his career, West has proven to be a solid contributor off the bench. But his off-court issues might persuade the Celtics to pass.
Could Smith be the missing piece to turn the C's into contenders?
Every week it seems Boston is being linked to another big trade.
With the Celtics ranking near the bottom of the league in three-point shooting, picking up the NCAA’s career-record holder in long-range shooting makes a lot of sense. Redick is shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc this season.
However, much has not been heard on that front since.
Then news broke about a possible deal between Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers that involved swapping Kevin Garnett in exchange for DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. (via Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski)
The move would make sense for both teams.
The Clippers would get Garnett’s veteran leadership in the locker room. He could fill a role that Kenyon Martin provided during the Clippers’ postseason run last season. Meanwhile, the Celtics get a very good young point guard in Bledsoe with tremendous upside.
But Garnett is one of four players in the league with a no-trade clause. So any move would require his consent.
Then there was the startling report that Boston was in preliminary talks with the rival Los Angeles Lakers about a blockbuster deal involving both Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard. (via CBS Sports’ Ken Berger)
With Rondo out for at least the remainder of this season, this news had many scratching their head. It was not long before Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak put an end to such talks. (via Boston Globe’s Matt Pepin)
Finally, there’s the latest twists and turns in the ongoing saga between the Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith.
According to Gary Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, Boston is trying to entice the Hawks into dealing Smith in exchange for Jeff Green and Brandon Bass.
It’s no secret that the Celtics and Smith would be a perfect fit. Smith is very close to Rondo, going back to their playing days at Oak Hill.
And these are the only the options that are being talked about.
Expect big things from Boston before the Feb. 21 deadline.
The Knicks are the only team in the way of Boston's hope for another Atlantic Division crown.
It’s no secret that the road to the Atlantic Division title goes through New York right now.
However, when it comes down to the end, it will be Boston and New York battling for the crown.
With two matchups in the span of five days, the stretch of Mar. 26-Mar. 31 will likely decide the division.
The Celtics also have a meeting with the Atlanta Hawks in between the two showdowns. On the other hand, the Knicks have two-straight contests with the much-improved Toronto Raptors preceding the stretch, with matchups against the Miami Heat and the Hawks immediately soon after.
Expect to see the standings shift quite a bit during this span.
For a team that has overcome every obstacle that has been thrown in its way, making up five games should prove to be a small task for Boston.
That’s how many games the Celtics trail the New York Knicks for second place in the Eastern Conference.
If recent history is to be taken into consideration, a second-half surge is almost expected from Boston.
Since the 2007-08 season, the Celtics are 101-52 (66 percent) following the All-Star break.
Doing the math, that means they would win about 20 of their remaining 30 games. That would give them a record of 48-34 on the season.
Although it will be the first sub-50-win season since 2007—excluding last year’s lockout-shortened campaign—it should be enough to lock up the Atlantic Division for Boston.
With nine matchups remaining against the six teams ahead of them in the conference, the Celtics have plenty of opportunities to make up some ground.
Expectations are once again high for Boston heading into the second half of the season.
Then again, with the amount of ups and downs this season has brought the team, trying to pinpoint just what to expect might prove too difficult of a task.
However, one thing will always remain the same: As long as the Celtics have Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in green, you can expect them to play their hardest until the final whistle.
But is that enough to take them on another deep postseason run? Is it enough to deliver the franchise their 18th NBA title?
Only time will tell.
Until then, just enjoy what looks to be exciting basketball the rest of the way.
Also check out: How Are the Celtics Surviving Without Rondo?