The Boston Celtics are about to embark on one of the toughest stretches of the season. In the month of January, the Celtics have 16 games in 29 days, starting and ending on the road, with today's match-up against the Toronto Raptors and a Sunday afternoon game against the defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers on the 30th. This includes three separate instances of back-to-back games.
The C's have seven games against teams currently over .500, including face-offs against the NBA's best San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, Portland Trailblazers, and of course the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, it's not entirely bleak for the Celtics in January. Ten of the sixteen games are at home, where the C's have only lost twice this season.
And even more fortunately for the men in green, Boston only has two road games through the first twenty-one days of January. This includes a three game home stretch (January 3-7), separated by a visit to Chicago on the eighth, and then followed by a 6 game home stretch (January 10-21).
The toughest test for the C's comes at the end of the month, where they face off with three Western Conference teams in four days (January 27-30), against the Trail Blazers, Suns, and Lakers.
Despite the frenetic pace of games in January, the C's should get some valuable rest time at home for the guys who might be a little banged up (the O'Neal twins), and the guys who are currently tasked for sideline-suit duty (Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, etc).
Barring any setbacks, Rondo will be back for a good chunk of the January games, and Garnett could very well be back in time for the West Coast road trip at the end of the month.
With so many guys out for the count, and so many key games on the schedule, it's imperative that the healthy starters and bench players step up. They don't need to perform outside their designated roles to be effective, they just need to focus on the fundamentals like sound defense, ball movement, and ball efficiency.
It's very possible that we see some more of guys like Luke Harangody, Von Wafer, Semih Erden, and even Avery Bradley. Both Harangody and Wafer have recently shown structured play on both sides of the ball, and given the nature of their roles on the team it's unlikely we see either overstep their bounds when on the floor.
Limiting turnovers and being efficient on the offensive end is key, and is what the Celtics struggled with most on their New Year's Eve loss to the New Orleans Hornets.
Time will tell whether the month of January turns into another post-Christmas, injury-filled slide, or a turning point for the veteran group. The Celtics have a chance to not only significantly impact their record by winning of a number of games, but to solidify themselves as a unit.
One thing is for sure, if the Celtics really want to keep their hopes of finishing the season as the number one seed in the NBA alive, they've got to perform well in January.
Full January Schedule
- Sunday, January 2 @ Toronto Raptors
- Monday, January 3 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
- Wednesday, January 5 vs. San Antonio Spurs
- Friday, January 7 vs. Toronto Raptors
- Saturday, January 8 @ Chicago Bulls
- Monday, January 10 vs. Houston Rockets
- Wednesday, January 12 vs. Sacramento Kings
- Friday, January 14 vs. Charlotte Bobcats
- Monday, January 17 vs. Orlando Magic
- Wednesday, January 19 vs. Detroit Pistons
- Friday, January 21 vs. Utah Jazz
- Saturday, January 22 @ Washington Wizards
- Tuesday, January 25 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
- Thursday, January 27 @ Portland Trailblazers
- Friday, January 28 @ Phoenix Suns
- Sunday, January 30 @ Los Angeles Lakers
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