THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Success at home gives Celtics a boost as they hit the road

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / November 7, 2010

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At the very least, the Celtics have braced themselves for the elements. They withstood their Finals-sized season opener against the Heat, and learned from the equally large pothole they ran over the next night when they lost to the Cavaliers. Their past two games — overtime battles with the Bucks and Bulls — had playoff potential written all over them.

The Celtics hit the road knowing that the conditions won’t get easier.

They start tonight in Oklahoma City, where the Ford Center will feel like Cameron Indoor Stadium. Then it’s off to Dallas, where they will try to steal a win from the second-best team in the West last year. They’ll have a couple of days to gather themselves before Round 2 with the Heat Thursday. When they’re through in Miami, the Grizzlies will be sitting, primed to pick apart whatever’s left.

“I don’t look at it as an easy one,’’ said Celtics forward Glen Davis. “Not at all.’’

“It’s just a tough trip,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “I saw it when the schedule came out, it’s not going to change. So we’ll be ready.

“We’ve got to take one game at a time. You can’t play Oklahoma thinking about Dallas because you’ll lose. You can’t play Dallas thinking about Miami.’’

Three of the Celtics’ first six games were televised nationally, and at this point, Paul Pierce looks at the bright-light conditions as par for the course.

“A lot of our games have been playoff-type this season,’’ said Pierce. “Everybody’s going to be up for the Celtics. That’s just the way it is.

“We have a target on our back. We’re going to be one of the best teams in the East. So you’ve got to expect a lot of energy and a lot of teams are going to be ready.’’

A year ago, the road was a safe haven for the Celtics. They picked up 26 of their 50 wins in other teams’ buildings, and it gave them enough confidence to believe that even though they had home-court advantage in only one of their postseason series, they could still make a Finals run. But because they didn’t protect home court last season, they had to play Game 7 in Los Angeles.

So far, the Celtics have kept their home record spotless (4-0). Finding a way to win two haywire contests before hitting the road helped build momentum before their first extended road test of the season. They’ve fought through spells of carelessness (16 turnovers per game) and collected themselves when they started to drift from their principles.

“It’s early in the season, we’re working through it,’’ Ray Allen said. “We’re definitely gaining resiliency throughout the games. You don’t want to go on the road and try to get some confidence going. You don’t want to be overconfident, but at least we’re in a situation where when we start on the road we can say we started on a good note. Now, we don’t have to worry about what happened at home.’’

The Celtics will go on the trip without Shaquille O’Neal, who has missed the past three games with a bone bruise in his right knee. Rajon Rondo’s foot soreness (which Rivers agreed to call plantar fasciitis) is also a concern. But when they return home, the Celtics will be able to activate Delonte West, who will have completed his 10-game suspension.

“You want to get these home wins early because we know we’ve got a tough road trip,’’ Pierce said. “A lot of playoff contenders.

“You talk about Dallas, you talk about Oklahoma City, Miami, Memphis. Those are teams that in our view are going to be [contenders] in the West. We’ve got our work cut out for us. I’m just glad we got it done at home.’’

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