The Boston Celtics look to close out a tough road trip that has both tested the teams character and also exposed some true issues. The lone bright spot of the very difficult stretch of games on the road was Jeff Green’s dominant break-out performance against the dead-last Phoenix Suns. Although Green’s play has been increasingly progressive towards trending positive, the Celtics offense continues to get caught in stagnant scoring droughts.
Last night the struggling Portland Trailblazers were able to escape a seven game losing streak to a Celtics squad that missed a plethora of easy buckets. The Celtics also took losses to a fired up and semi-revived Los Angeles Lakers team and the Denver Nuggets were also able to seek some revenge after they lost on the road at the hand of the Celtics in a triple overtime instant classic.
Tonight, two seventh seeds from opposing conferences collide as the Celtics tackle the second night of a back-to-back against a red hot home team in the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are thriving at home per usual posting a 21-6 record despite an overcrowded front-court (if there is such a thing) and some defensive struggles.
The Jazz were heavily criticized at the trade deadline for not moving either Al Jefferson or Paul Milsap for a more reliable offensive threat of some kind. Although Jefferson is having one of his usual years in terms of individual success, the team is lacking chemistry as well as a go to guy that can put a team on their back. The Jazz continue to have success especially at home, but it just doesn’t stick out as a destination that attracts All-Star caliber free agents.
The Celtics continue to experiment on a nightly basis as they are still looking for a valid solution down the stretch in terms of finding the best starting line up and most effective rotations. This road trip has truly exposed how inefficient the Celtics offense can be even if they stay in games with solid defense. Getting easy buckets is still a huge issue for this team, they often fail to get inside and find themselves in some for of “jump shot hell” on a nightly basis.
It’s understandable that with a team now overcrowded with off ball guards and jump shooters than the shots are going to fly at a high rate, but relying on jump shots to make runs late in games rather than getting to the line and stopping the clock has been an area of concern for the Celtics. The Celtics average just 95.9 points per game which puts them at a league ranking of 18th, no matter how good their team defense can be, not being able to put in much needed points will never bode well when playing the high-octane Western Conference offenses.
The Celtics rebounding numbers also continue to look atrocious. Defensively, they have made some small strides towards hitting the glass at a higher percentage but they remain dismal on second chance points and opportunities, an area that the Jazz should have an overwhelming advantage in for tonight’s match-up.
The Celtics currently stand 1-3 on a difficult road trip that was originally scheduled to only be a four game trip, not five. Looking to escape 2-3 isn’t necessarily a hopeful sign for a team fighting to gain some ground in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race, but they will have to take what they can get and do what they have been forced to do all year and simply grind it out as a constant work in progress.
Eric St. Cyr is an NBA Contributor for Rantsports.com Follow Him on Twitter @EricJsaint