Boston Celtics: 4 Things To Look for On the Upcoming Road Trip
The Celtics are on the road preparing to play four games in six nights which includes back-to-back games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns, highlighted by an NBA Finals rematch against the LA Lakers and ends with the Sacramento Kings.
Head coach Doc Rivers was unhappy with the scheduling due to the excessive travel in a short amount of time, "Traveling to Portland and playing a game the next day is brutal. And then you fly backwards to Phoenix, where you lose an hour, and then you play the Lakers. . . That's a lot of games."
Boston is currently 5-5 in the second game of a back-to-back and currently have six remaining back-to-back contests the rest of the season.
The Celtics haven't traveled to a Western Conference opponent since November 13th and have only played three road games against the Western Conference all season.
Needless to say, the schedule worked in their favor to start, but 21 of their remaining 37 games are on the road.
Hopefully the Celtics can continue their strong start, but prepare for a turbulent finish.
No. 1: Rajon Rondo Needs To Lead the Way
Rondo needs to keep the Celtics focused and prepared to play
Rondo will be facing some tough point guard matchups on this road trip. They include Andre Miller, Steve Nash, Derek Fisher and Tyreke Evans.
Rondo will have his hands full on the defensive end, but really needs to be aggressive in order for the Celtics to win. We've seen nights where Rondo simply looks to pass and his unselfishness actually hurts the Celtics.
During this road trip, Rondo needs to be the ultimate catalyst for the Celtics, especially against the Lakers.
No. 2: How Much Can Shaq Contribute?
Will Shaq be healthy enough to contribute for the Celtics?
Shaquille O'Neal has been a pleasant surprise for the most part this season, nearly averaging ten points and five rebounds a game. He's missed the past couple of games due to a sore right hip.
Doc stated, "It's not a serious injury, but he’s also 38-years-old. We’re going to be very cautious."
O'Neal made the trip to the west coast, but it is still unknown if he'll be ready to play or not. If he's ready to play, he provides the Celtics with favorable matchup advantages and an extra big man.
Don't count on him playing in back-to-back games, as the Celtics prefer not to add that toll onto his body.
It's too early to count on Kendrick Perkins, so hopefully Shaq can play in at least two of the four upcoming road games.
No. 3: Kendrick Perkins' Progress and Affect On the Celtics
Perk gave Celtics fans plenty to smile about in his season debut
Kendrick Perkins made his season debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers and contributed seven points to go along with six rebounds. Even though it was against the abysmal Cavs, Perk proved his importance to the Celtics roster.
The Celtics will most likely be extremely cautious with Perk and keep him around the 20 minute mark each game. Perk still needs time to get his wind back, but he's already provided a nice energy boost for the Celtics.
Doc may choose to stick with Semih or Shaq in the starting lineup for now, so Perkins off the bench is a nice defensive advantage to have in the Celtics back pocket.
No. 4: Bench Play and Rebounding
The success of the bench lands squarely on these two
Rebounding has been an issue for the Celtics for a while now and they recently dropped to ninth in defensive rebounding. Doc stated that he's not too worried about the drop since he expects rebounding to improve with the return of Kendrick Perkins and a healthy Kevin Garnett.
No doubt the Celtics remember the offensive rebounding advantage the Lakers possessed in the NBA Finals, which should prove for some extra motivation for the Celtics this road trip.
Marquis Daniels is expected to return after missing his first game of the season due to family reasons.
The Celtics bench has been admirable so far this season, but they still rank among the lowest scoring benches in the NBA. As long as the bench can hold even while on the court, and provide an energy boost (if necessary), the Celtics starters should be able carry the load.
This road trip won't be a walk in the park, but anything less than winning three out of the four will be a disappointment.