After losing 5 of their 6 games before going on their 4-game California road trip, the Celtics knew they needed wins to boost their confidence and to push them into a higher seed in the playoffs. Coming off a loss at home to the hot Houston Rockets, Boston started their road trip with a much-needed blowout win verse the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors, with Gordon Hayward scoring a game-high 30 points off the bench. On the second night of the back-to-back, the Celtics beat the Sacramento Kings, where Hayward played hero again. While he only had 12 points, he hit a fade-away jumper to give the Celtics the lead to win the game.
The Celtics traveled to Los Angeles to play the struggling LA Lakers, where Kyrie Irving’s 30-point night topped LeBron James’ 30 point triple-double and helped Boston get the win. They lost to the Clippers at the end of the road trip, giving up 140 points, the most points given up by the Celtics since 1994.
So what happened? How did they Celtics turn it around? Two words. Initials: GH. That’s right: Great Hair. Actually, Gordon Hayward, but it fits and makes sense. Hayward has been slowly improving his game since his gruesome injury at the beginning of last season. Now averaging 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3 assists, Hayward needs to find his stroke by April. Statistically, the Celtics win when Hayward scores more than 10 points. According to ESPN’s Power Rankings, the Celtics have won 15 of their last 16 games where Hayward scores in double digits.
Boston needs to stay together for these next 14 games of the season. We’ve seen how easily they can fall apart, with Kyrie criticizing the media to locker room arguments. The Celtics play against two top-tier teams in the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers, as well two games against the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers. The remaining schedule isn’t going to be super tough, but it won’t be a walk in the park either. So what do the Celtics need to do to ensure a high-seed and a hot start in the playoffs? For starters, maybe don’t give up 140 points in a game? We need to get locked in on defense. While the Celtics are still a top 5 defensive team, we’re in the bottom half of the league in rebounding. Maybe giving Robert Williams and Gershon Yabusele some minutes could help improve our rebounding numbers. Plus, who doesn’t love the Dancing Bear?
The Celtics are third in the league in turnovers per game and 5th in points off turnovers. Boston’s fastbreak opportunities have been there all season, and capitalizing on them come playoff time is going to be essential for securing wins against teams like Philadelphia, who is one of the worst in defending the fast break.
All in all, we need everyone on the team to put in work. With Kyrie’s attitude getting better, Hayward finding his stroke, and the whole team coming together, I can see the playoffs looking pretty green. Let’s get this playoff bread.