By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For just the second time this season, the Boston Celtics have won back-to-back games on the same road trip. It’s just the third time overall that they’ve won two games during an expedition away from Boston.
But their work is far from done on this current four-game West Coast swing. With their double dip in the Staples Center up next, the Celtics will be out for a bit of revenge over the next few days. They’ll look to avenge two of their worst losses of the season, ready to dish out a little payback against the Lakers and the Clippers.
First up is a Saturday night clash with the dysfunctional Lakers. Last time these two teams met on National TV, the Lakers stunned the Celtics with a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater at TD Garden. The Celtics blew an 18-point lead in that game, snapping a five-game win streak.
Blowing a big lead is an issue, but fluky buzzer-beaters happen. That loss, in a nutshell, is somewhat acceptable, given LeBron James still kind of cared at that point. But what happened a few nights after that loss was the definition of unacceptable for a team claiming to be a title contender.
When L.A.’s other team came to Boston, the Clippers resembled a last-minute pick-up squad more than an NBA team thanks to their flurry of moves ahead of the NBA trade deadline. But those Clippers embarrassed the Celtics by erasing a 28-point deficit en route to a 123-112 victory. The Celtics let Los Angeles score 70 points in the second half, putting up just 38 points of their own in a truly uninspiring effort. In a season that has been filled with disappointing and disheartening losses, that one stands out as the worst of the worst.
The Celtics won their next two games after that disconcerting stretch against the L.A. teams, but the damage was done. The luster of their five-game win streak was completely stripped away and Boston went 3-5 in the weeks that followed, including a four-game skid. Any of those good thoughts about the team returning to their contender status was once again extinguished.
Now, as we’re starting to feel those good feelings again following back-to-back road wins over the Warriors and Kings, the Celtics have to deal with the L.A. duo. This time around, there are no excuses.
The Lakers are an absolute mess, with their season circling down the drain. They’re 6.5 games out of a playoff spot, with James and the team’s younger core at odds. The Lakers have dropped four straight and eight of their last 10, and most in La-La land are questioning LeBron’s commitment to the team. James is still capable of carrying his team on any given night, but he hasn’t shown any interest in doing so over the last week.
The Clippers, on the other hand, are actually playing well. They’ve won seven of their last 10 and Doc Rivers has his team sitting in the eight-seed in the Western Conference. It’s impressive that they’ve been able to climb back into the playoff picture following their deadline fire sale. But then you see that their recent stretch of success has come against the likes of the Lakers, Knicks, Maverics, Grizzlies, and Suns, and it isn’t as impressive. They’ve been playing better as of late, but are still ripe for the taking.
And for a Celtics team that can’t afford to take their foot off the gas right now, these two matchups in Hollywood are a perfect way to show the world that they’re far removed from those disappointing collapses against these two teams last month. Sweeping this road trip, or at least going 3-1, will also help ease the sting of last week’s sour stretch. Lose both, and we can go back to feeling the same disappointing way we’ve felt about the C’s for much of the season.
The Celtics have been a disappointing road team this year, going just 16-16 away from the TD Garden. That is a far cry from last season, when the Celtics went 28-13 on the road and teams quivered whenever they saw Boston coming for a visit. With nine of their 16 remaining games on the road, now would be a great time for the Celtics to take back that identity.
Sweeping this road trip, and getting some much-needed revenge on the Lakers and Clippers, would be a good start.