C's Taste Playoffs Through Home-and-Homes

WALTHAM, Mass. – Playing in a home-and-home series is a rare occurrence for the Boston Celtics.

Well, maybe not at the end of March.

The Celtics, who have played just one home-and-home series in their first 70 games of the season, will triple that amount over their next four games. Boston will tip off a home-and-home with the Raptors on Wednesday at TD Garden and then do the same against the Bulls on Sunday.

Rajon Rondo takes a jumper against Brooklyn

Rajon Rondo and the Celtics will play two mini series against Toronto and Chicago over their next four games.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

“I think it will be a good thing for our team to have to play against a team, learn through film and learn through walk-through and go back and play against them again,” Brad Stevens said on Tuesday. “Two very good teams playing at a very good level. Obviously (they are) the three- and four- seeds in the East right now.”

Toronto is currently slated in as the third seed in the East, just percentage points ahead of fourth-seeded Chicago. Both teams are destined for the playoffs and are currently fighting for home court advantage. The Celtics are unlikely to be participating in the playoffs, so they’re viewing these next four games as their taste of the postseason.

“You kind of take it like a playoff game,” Celtics captain Rajon Rondo said. “You play the team once. Obviously there isn’t much to be changed in a couple of days. You try to do a better job of executing the offense and defensive schemes. We’ll play Toronto and then we’ll have one day to rest and then we’ll go back at it again on the road.”

Jared Sullinger agreed with Rondo’s thought process while also noting that Toronto will have a lot on the line during both games.

“Definitely,” Sullinger said of the playoff-series mindset, “because every game is an adjustment in the playoffs… We know we’ve got to make adjustments when we play a team back-to-back and this is a team that wants to win the Atlantic Division, so it’s going to be a scrappy game.”

Tuesday’s practice was Boston’s opportunity to prepare for the second consecutive day to implement the game plan they’ll use against Toronto over the next two games. “Over the next two games” is what stands out to Sullinger as one of the most unique aspects of a home-and-home series.

“One thing I do like is the scouting report doesn’t change so you don’t have to think about another team,” said Sullinger. “So that’s the beauty of it… Win or lose, we don’t have to think about the next team we play. We just know that we play Toronto. Watch the game film and do your analysis from there.”

That’s all well and good for the sake of mental clarity, but Stevens put more weight into what will actually transpire on the court.

“From the game plan standpoint you might be able to tweak and change some things and do some things on the fly, which are good, because you basically have 96 straight minutes against the same team,” Stevens said, “but it still goes back to – and it always does – it goes back to how well you do your stuff versus how well they do their stuff and who makes plays when those plays present themselves.”

Toronto and Chicago have made more of those plays than Boston has this season, and that’s why they’re in line for home court advantage during the first round of the playoffs. The Celtics, meanwhile, have to settle for their taste of a playoff vibe by participating in these rare home-and-homes at the end of March.

Don’t get used to this if you’re a Celtics fan. First of all, home-and-homes do not come around very often, particularly at the end of the season. Secondly, as Stevens reminds us all, Boston is more interested in playing home-and-homes during April, May and June of 2015 and beyond.

“Hopefully,” Stevens said, “we’re to the point sooner rather than later that we’re playing a lot of them that really matter.”