C's Aim To Rise up in the Face of Adversity

BOSTON – If the Boston Celtics’ season is a seesaw, neither end is touching the ground. That might change in the next four days.

Boston currently stands in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 20-21 record. It won six straight games in early January, but it has followed that streak up with four consecutive losses. Now the Celtics are staring down what may be the most challenging weekend of games that is on their schedule this season.

We’re being lenient with the word “weekend,” because in this instance, we’re beginning the weekend on Thursday. Boston opens up a three-games-in-four-nights stretch by hosting the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks at 8 p.m. Thursday night on TNT.

Doc, KG

Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and the Celtics have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this weekend's tough slate of games.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

We all know how difficult it is to win any game against the Knicks. These two rivals have battled it out for the better part of three seasons now, with the most recent clash on January 7 ending in a 102-96 Celtics victory.

Thursday’s matchup with the Knicks will be a “bar fight,” as Kevin Garnett likes to call it. The problem is, Boston might be in store for two more bar fights in the following days.

The Celtics will board a plane following Thursday’s game and fly down to Atlanta for a Friday night matchup with the Hawks. This is much to the chagrin of Doc Rivers, who always lets it be known that he believes no team should be forced to travel and play the next day after taking part in a nationally televised game an 8 p.m.

Rivers has good reason for holding that belief. His team likely won’t arrive at its Atlanta hotel until nearly 4 a.m. Friday morning, and that’s after a physical game against the Knicks. Tack on some time for the C’s to settle into their rooms and they’re likely to have their fatigued bodies visit REM mode at around 5 a.m.

When was the last time you had a 5 a.m. night? During finals week of your most recent school year? Imagine having to wake up the next day, as the C’s will, and play an NBA basketball game against a physical and athletic Hawks team that owns a 14-7 record at home. It wouldn’t be easy for you, and it won’t be easy for them.

Neither will Sunday’s challenge, which will pit the Celtics against the defending NBA champs, the Miami Heat, after another quick turnaround. The Celts will head back to Boston after Friday’s game and have Saturday off. That’s great, but the problem is that Sunday’s game begins at 1 p.m. The early start will result in limited rest and a rare early wake up call for the Celtics before taking on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat.

Put all of this together and what do you have? The Celtics taking on three plus-.500 teams in the span of 65 hours while traveling about 2,000 miles in the air. Talk about a rough weekend.

Boston’s seesaw is currently teetering, and it’s highly possible that this difficult stretch could send their end tumbling to the ground. But on the other end of the spectrum, this could wind up being a really good thing for the men in green and white.

The Celtics have thrived at times this season while facing some of the circumstances they’ll encounter this weekend. There are several facts that should be taken into account when assessing Boston’s chances over the next four days

Let’s start off with Thursday’s game against the Knicks. Boston just beat the Knicks, on the road no less, 16 days ago while concluding a tough three-game stretch. Now the Celtics will play them at home after having a rare day off on Wednesday.

Friday’s game in Atlanta will take place in the same arena where Boston clobbered the Hawks 18 days ago. The C’s limited Atlanta to just 28 second-half points during that game and literally broke their opponent’s will.

Although Sunday’s game against the Heat will only be Boston’s second afternoon game of the season, the C’s have shown that they can bring their A-game under those circumstances. Boston’s only other afternoon game this season was on Christmas Day in Brooklyn and the Celtics demolished the Nets by a score of 93-76.

Lastly, let’s look at Boston’s performance this month. It is true that three of Boston’s five losses this month have come against sub-.500 teams. However, it is also a fact that four of the Celtics’ six wins in January have come against plus-.500 teams, including two that will be Boston’s opponent this weekend. As much as fans may harp on the fact that the Celtics have played down to their competition, they must also recognize that Boston has played up to its competition, too.

There should be some discouragement after the Celtics have followed up six straight wins with four straight losses. Some may even expect the team to crumble in the face of a challenging weekend. There is, however, evidence that Boston could excel in the face of this weekend’s adversity and tip its seesaw in the right direction.