The Celtics are flying high as they head into Oklahoma City hoping to sweep the series against the Thunder for the first time since the 2008-09 season. It will be no easy task for Boston, a team that had struggled on the road before their most recent stretch. At the All-Star break, the Celtics had been losers of 12 of their previous 16 games away from home. However, after falling to the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center and the Lakers at the Staples Center, Boston has gone on to win four of their last five away games. This has been the team’s best road stretch in almost a year.
The Celtics already have as many wins on the road — six — without Rajon Rondo as they did with him this season. In addition, just a few weeks ago, the Celtics were the only projected playoff team with fewer than 10 road wins in 2012-13. Now, they have a respectable 12-18 away record. In comparison, the Indiana Pacers are just two games better on the road than the Celtics.
One of the reasons for the Celtics’ strong performance recently is their 3-point offense and defense. The Celtics have made double-digit 3-pointers in three of their last five road games. This is the first time that they have had made at least 10 shots from beyond the arc three times in a five-game stretch since 2009. The Celtics didn’t even have one game in which they made double-digit 3-pointers in their first 25 games away from TD Garden this season. Overall, the Celtics have succeeded when shooting well from downtown. They are 3-0 on the road this season when making double-digit 3-pointers, and 6-0 overall when doing so.
Regarding the outside shot, there is one player in particular to look for on Sunday. Jason Terry is now just two 3-pointers made away from his 13th consecutive season of making at least 100 shots from downtown. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are the only other players to do so from 2000-01 to 2012-13. The record for the most consecutive seasons of at least 100 three pointers made is held by Reggie Miller (15 seasons: 1989-90 to 2003-04).
The Celtics’ 3-point defense has vastly improved over the last six weeks. In their first 20 road games this season, opponents shot 39% from deep. However, in the last 10 away games, opponents have put up only 31% on those shots. After beginning the season as one of the worst 3-point defenses, the Celtics are now a top-tier one, as Brian discussed earlier this week.
While Boston is one of the worst overall rebounding teams, their defensive rebounding percentage is in the middle of the pack this season. The key for the Celtics is to avoid losing the rebounding battle by a large margin. In three of the last five road games, Boston has kept the battle close and won each of those contests. The Celtics are now 22-12 overall this season when either winning the rebound battle or losing it by five or fewer.
Rebounding along with 3-point shooting and defense against 3-pointers will be important going forward for the 2012-13 Celtics. Boston has been playing fantastically lately and will hope to continue their strong road play on Sunday at Oklahoma City on ABC.
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