Celtics Not Home Free

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Celtics Not Home Free

January 5, 2004

WALTHAM - Considering how he could best prepare Boston for tonight's game against Detroit, Jim O'Brien had a few options. No. 1, he could call in a charter and sit the Celtics on the plane for eight hours. (That worked before the Denver game and started a five-game win streak.) No. 2, the players could check into a luxury hotel on Boston Common for an hour and head to the FleetCenter via bus. (That worked Saturday night at the United Center as Boston defeated Chicago.) No. 3, O'Brien could hold practice, even though the Celtics just finished two sets of three games in four nights.Being a practical man who never can get enough practice time, O'Brien's decision was easy. Boston worked out yesterday at its training facility, even though extra practice time has yielded varying results this season.

   The 17-18 Celtics thrive on the road, especially when faced with adversity, be it a double-digit deficit, travel delays, or both. But they have struggled at home, and enter tonight's game two games below .500 at the FleetCenter. They are at a loss as to why they have a better record on the road (9-8)  than at home (8-10). Boston would like some answers sooner rather than later, considering its schedule features three straight home games against Eastern Conference teams (Detroit, Orlando, Cleveland).

"We just talked about doing a better job at home," said Paul Pierce. "It's a chance for us to take advantage of the schedule. Hopefully, by the end of the month, we can be up over this .500 mark we've been lingering around the last month. We've just got to take advantage of our home games, which we haven't been doing. Guys are really aware of it. We've got to develop a sense of urgency now that we're home.

"You would expect with a new group of guys to not really have the mental toughness to go out and get a lot of road wins and [that they'd] play better at home. But if you look at it, it's the opposite. Guys have more confidence on the road than at home. But at home, that's where we've got to get it done. I feel we can be a .500 or better team on the road. We've just got to do a better job at home."

Since, as expected, the Celtics showed up with tired legs, the coaching staff worked them out but also spent 45 minutes reviewing tape.

"If you can't drill their legs, then at least you can drill their minds a little bit," said O'Brien. "We've played more games than anybody in the NBA and it's going to continue that way until after the All-Star break. So we have been taxed a little bit by the fact that we need practice time and we don't have the luxury of practice time because we only are getting one day off in between games, and in many cases, we're playing back-to-back right now. We're pretty much trying to learn as the games are going on. We don't really have any choice.

"I'm not zeroing in on [trade acquisitions] Ricky [Davis], Chris [Mihm], and Mike [Stewart]. We're having a lot of slippage with guys that have been here the longest because we're not getting practice time. I think these guys all have a pretty good understanding of what we want defensively, but it's a matter of drilling and getting the repetitions. Even if there were no trades and we were experiencing the type of schedule that we're having right now, you'd have slippage."

While O'Brien noted that all NBA teams face tough scheduling, he said the Celtics' schedule has been even more intense than usual. By the time Boston breaks for All-Star weekend, it will have played 54 games, or 66 percent of its schedule. That's not ideal for any team, especially one trying to win with a roster that has been almost completely overhauled since last season. The closest Boston will come to a break is this week, as three home games over six days constitutes a relatively light load.

"I think we will take advantage of that [schedule this week]," said O'Brien. "Normally, after three games in four nights, we would have given the team off today, but we just can't do that. We will really have no days off. We'll practice every day in between games and have a good practice the day of a game, as much as we can without leaving our legs on the practice court."

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