It’s been a rite of passage during the past three years of the new “Big Three” era in Boston. One or two west coast swings by this squad, after Christmas, usually accompanied by a fair amount of turbulence along the way. So as your 2010-11 Celtics embark on their first said trip of the year, I decided to do a bit of research on the team’s successes and failures out West the past few years to try to script out what would be considered a strong trip for this roster.
First, some ground rules. I decided not to include the entire Western Conference for this. Instead, I included all of the teams in the Mountain Time Zone and further west. So essentially it’s Denver and everyone else to the west of them. The other western squads are largely played during isolated other trips that include Eastern Conference opponents so I figured it made little sense to include them here. So here’s who we are dealing with here.
Denver, Golden State, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Utah
Not exactly murderer’s row, but certainly a formidable task, with five of those eight teams being regular playoff participants the past three years. So how have the C’s stood up against these opponents on the road the past three years?
07-08: 6-3 (including Seattle)
Now before we dissect these results even further, a question. Which is the only one of said teams to beat Boston on their home floor for all three years? Got your answer? The surprising answer, after the jump
Not the Lakers, Suns, Nuggets, or even Jazz. It’s the cellar-dwelling Golden State Warriors. Here’s the full breakdown of how the C’s have fared against each opponent:
LA Lakers: 2-1
LA Clippers: 1-2
Golden State: 0-3
Quite a few records that stick out to you out of that bunch eh? Obviously the C’s love to beat up on the Kings, but the 2-1 record vs. Lakers as opposed to going winless against the Warriors or 1-2 against the Clippers? I would not have expected that. It definitely feeds into the recent common theme that Boston does like to drop games or “fails to get up” for inferior opponents. It’s happened with the East teams this year, and obviously has out west for the past few years.
A couple more caveats while looking at these marks. First, the C’s were extremely shorthanded for a lot of these games. No Kevin Garnett obviously for plenty of them in 2008-09, and Paul Pierce missed a big chunk of the team’s post Christmas road swing last year with his knee infection. Plus, there are other variables like back-to-backs, bumps and bruises, etc. to take into account.
If nothing else though, this should give you a taste of just how vulnerable this team has been away from the TD Garden the past couple years. It’s not just who they play out west, it’s where they play.
The good news is for the C’s upcoming trip, both health and recent history should be on their side. They’ve had great success in Sacramento, Portland, and against the Lakers recently (NBA Finals aside). Phoenix is struggling with a floundering team of their own with no identity after their blockbuster trade and the Blazers are down both Marcus Camby and Brandon Roy tonight.
So what would be considered a good trip here? Is it okay to settle for a 2-2 trip given the team’s recent road struggles? Or with all the injuries in play, can we hopefully expect this crew to escape back home with three wins in tow?
That’s a pretty high expectation with a brutal back-to-back timing and traveling wise with Portland and Phoenix on the horizon, so bad Doc Rivers even asked the NBA to change it. Still, with Kendrick Perkins back and plenty of national games on the horizon, the opportunity is there.
And the battle for a top seed in the east will likely depend on how this team fares on their west road swings going forward.