Celtics Accomplish "Special" Feat on the Road

SALT LAKE CITY – This wasn’t supposed to happen.

The odds couldn’t have been much more stacked against the Boston Celtics on Monday night, save for playing against a juggernaut of an opponent.

They were instead playing against the sub-.500 Utah Jazz, but in a juggernaut of a game.

Take all of this into consideration:

Boston just wrapped up a back-to-back Monday night in Utah.

It also just played its fourth game in five nights after traveling a total of 2,552 miles since Game 1 of the stretch came to an end.

Two of those four games just so happened to be played in the two highest-altitude cities in the league, and the other two were played against two of the NBA’s top three teams.

The Celtics also lost two key players during the stretch, Marcus Smart for one game and and Kelly Olynyk for the foreseeable future.

Daunting a list, you might say. Enough to leave 13-year veteran Tayshaun Prince wondering if he had ever faced a more difficult stretch.

“It stacks up pretty tough,” Prince said of the road trip, quickly comparing it to others he had taken throughout his career. “Whenever you play in Denver and in Utah on the second part of a back-to-back, those are tough games and tough atmospheres.”

Games that, according to Prince, even championship contenders struggle to win.

“I’ve been on some great ball clubs throughout my career,” he said, “and we come to Denver and Utah and we can’t get a win.”

But these Celtics could.

They marched on into the Mile High City on Friday and played their tails off against the Nuggets, notching a 100-99 victory in the thin air of Denver. Oh, and that just so happened to take place one night after the C’s notched another thrilling victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, who at the time owned the third-best record in the NBA.

Boston then moved on to Golden State, where it took on the top team in the NBA on Sunday. The Warriors had won 18 straight home games by an average of 18.9 points per game. They upped that streak to 19 with a win over the Celtics, but it didn’t come easily.

The C’s fought tooth-and-nail with the Warriors, down to the very last second of the game. Golden State never led by more than 14 points and Boston nearly forced overtime before coming up three points shy, at 114-111.

We now know that Sunday’s slim and encouraging defeat is as low as Boston would fall during this four-games-in-five-nights stretch, because Monday night wasn’t even close.

The Celtics blasted the Jazz from the opening tip of this game. They made it look easy as they cruised to a 24-point halftime lead, shooting 54.1 percent from the field over the first 24 minutes of the game. Utah did make its run, as every team in the league does, but Boston thwarted the home team’s momentum and held on for a comfortable 99-90 victory.

Count ‘em up. That’s a 3-1 record – an improbable 3-1 record – that was racked up during the most challenging four-game travel schedule an NBA team will face this season.

“That’s what makes this special,” said Prince, “to go through this with a young team and pull out some wins in this situation.”

Did you hear that? Special. That’s coming from a former NBA champion, a guy who has been to the Conference Finals seven times in his career.

He knows as well as anyone that this wasn’t supposed to happen.

But it did.

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