Coming into the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Boston Celtics were the favorites to make it out of the Eastern conference and to the Finals, holding 5/8 odds. However, the season has not gone quite as planned with the team struggling at points throughout the season, even against teams that are well below .500.
Fingers have been pointed at particular players, including Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Jaylen Brown, overall effort, and the simple fact that there is possibly too much talent on the team. The team has had several low points throughout the year, but none stood out more than the weeks following the All-Star break.
The Celtics stumbled out of the All-Star break, dropping 5-of-6 games, before heading out to the West Coast for a four game stint against all four Californian teams, the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers.
Heading into the West Coast trip, things were not looking good for the Celtics as they had their first matchup against the Warriors. The Celtics have struggled on the road throughout this season, holding a 14-16 away record heading into Oracle Arena.
What ensued as the game tipped-off took many by surprise; the Celtics absolutely dismantled the Warriors, winning 128-95. The Celtics shot above 50%, 40% from three, and had 38 assists while forcing Golden State to turn the ball over a shocking 22 times. For the Celtics, Gordon Hayward stood out with a 30-point performance, shooting 12-of-16, with seven rebounds, and four assists in only 28 minutes off the bench.
After the game, Celtics All-Star guard Kyrie Irving stated how much the plane ride from Boston to California had helped the team bond. Irving stated “That long plane ride helped us out. I’ll just say that. That long plane ride helped us out.” During the flight Irving also had a chance to sit and talk with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and team president Danny Ainge to which he commented “Talking with Brad was very helpful, talking with Danny was very helpful, and just expressing myself rather than keeping it all in. That made it very easy to just go out and just have fun playing basketball.”
During the game it was easy to see that they had bonded as they approached the game together, as a team. There were smiles, cheers, and celebrations all night which were all things that have been missing throughout the season.
The following night, Boston went up against the Kings but had to do so without Irving as he was out with a thigh contusion. After holding a three point lead late in the fourth quarter, Hayward fouled Kings guard Buddy Hield on a three-point attempt, sending him to the free-throw line. After Hield tied the game, Hayward dribbled the ball up the floor, hitting a one-legged jumper over Hield, leaving two seconds on the clock. The Celtics went on to the win the game 111-109 thanks to Hayward’s jumper.
After starting 2-0 on their four game road trip, the Celtics had a few days of rest before going up against the struggling Lakers in the Staples Center. The Celtics were seeking revenge against the Lakers after Rajon Rondo hit a buzzer beater to win the game 129-128. The Celtics got their revenge, winning 120-107.
Irving, Hayward, and Marcus Smart led the way for the team as they each had impressive performances. Smart hit three straight three-point shots to open up the third quarter, pushing Boston to a large lead that would prove to be too much for the Lakers to overcome while Irving had several eye-popping moves and big shots that contributed to maintaining said lead.
Now 3-0 on the road trip, Boston has one more game, against the Clippers, before returning home to TD Garden to take on the Kings. This current trip for the Celtics has seemingly brought them together. The entire team’s attitude has changed in responses to the media, the bench during games, and general interactions with each other. Hopefully for the Celtics this current trend continues as they look to finish out the regular season strong while heading into the playoffs.