The following post is from new Green Room contributor Matt Hafele:
The road trip that saw the Celticsí first three-game losing streak this season and my sleep schedule get thrown for a loop finally came to an end Monday in Los Angeles. The players havenít been home in a week and for those that participated in All-Star Weekend (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo), it has been even longer. It was a brutal five-games-in-seven-days West Coast trip that had its highs and lows. Thankfully, the Celtics ended up winning in Portland and Los Angeles on a back-to-back to somewhat salvage the trip, and my sanity.
It has to be tough going on a long road trip like that right after the All-Star break, and the Celtics certainly didnít look like themselves in the first three games. Itís tough to determine whether that was because of the opponents or just the extended break. The first game, against Denver, was also Garnettís first game back in nearly a month. After Friday nightís game in Phoenix I wasnít really foreseeing this road trip ending on a positive note, but the Celts were able to pull it together and put a beating on the Blazers and the lowly and injury-depleted Clippers.
Midway through the second quarter against the Blazers on early Sunday evening (afternoon on the West Coast), the Celtics finally started clicking. They were getting stops like we knew they could and making the most of every offensive possession.
Much like their first West Coast trip in late December, Pierce played the hero. His game against Portland was arguably his best on the season. He was harassing ball handlers on the defensive end and added 30 points on a remarkable 12 of 14 shooting. Out of those 14 shots, only one was a lay-up. All of his other shots were mid-range jumpers or three-balls. It got to the point where once he got the ball the defender knew what he was going to do, but couldnít stop it. He put on quite the show just when the Celtics needed it.
In that second quarter of that Portland game they managed to get down by 17 and it looked like they were ready to drop their fourth game in a row. Somehow Pierce was even able to overshadow Rayís great offensive night. Both Pierce and Ray struggled mightily in the loss to Phoenix but neither could be stopped on Sunday.
It was really nice to see both of them bounce back immediately and in such an important game on the road. All players go through rough games, but itís good to know we have three top-tier options to look to this season. The Phoenix game was only Garnettís third game back, so itís tough to rely on him to carry the whole load. Itís easy to forget that most of the team this year is new and itís going to take time for everyone to get on the same page. Garnettís injury was a small setback but I donít think itís anything to worry about in the long run. The Celticsí next five games are all at home, starting with Cleveland on Wednesday, which could be an interesting playoff preview.
Some final thoughts on the road trip:
- The fourth quarter in Tuesday nightís game in Denver was wild. Pierce had one of his most emphatic dunks of this season -- and maybe his career. It was over both Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin, two great shot blockers. I wouldíve loved a win, but Iíll take the satisfaction of getting to rewind that play and watch it over and over again on my DVR.
- The Phoenix game was probably the Celticsí worst game of the season, and yet they only lost by 8. I can live with that, but mostly because they took the next two games.
- The Clippers' Sam Cassell sat out Mondayís game with a sprained wrist. The rumors have been flying about his potential buyout and the most likely place for him to land would be in Boston. I have been hoping for this moment all season and I think it would be a great move heading into the playoffs.
- How impressive was James Posey in the last two games?! Weíve become accustomed to his great defensive performances and his excellent multi-colored mouthpieceÖ but since when does he shoot the lights out? He shot a combined 12 of 16 from the field; 7 for 11 from deep. A couple of performances like that in the playoffs would be huge.
- Tuesday nightís game against the Nuggets was all right because it started at 9 p.m. -- but the Warriors and Clippers gamesí 10:30 start time is deadly during the work week. The Celtics can now come home to their families and I can get some much-needed sleep.
Oh, and hello
This is my first Green Room post, so to introduce myself, here are a few of my likes and dislikes. I like when Rondo does his fake behind-the-back pass. I like that Garnett yells ďGet that **** out of here,Ē after every block and is almost always picked up by the TV microphones. I also like when he nearly eats his jersey after an intense play or game. I like Ray Allenís perfect shooting stroke. I like listening to Tommy go crazy after any foul call. I like cheering for Scalabrine at the Garden, mainly because itís high comedy watching him play and I try to make the best out of a bad situation (his 5-year contract). I donít like Doc Rivers.
This season has definitely been the greatest since Iíve started bleeding green in the early Ď90s. Just like every other Celtics fan my expectations are through the roof. I live and die with every Celtics game and Iíll do my best to make my time here memorable -- pretty much the opposite of Rick Pitino.