Celtics notebook: Boston to face test on the road

Mike Fine

Here's a shock for you: Doc Rivers isn't looking past Sacramento when his Celtics begin a four-game road trip there Wednesday.

"I just look at the next game," said the coach, whose team will move on to Seattle on Thursday, followed by Saturday-Sunday games in Utah and Los Angeles (Lakers).

"I know we won't have any practices, just a shootaround. I don't look at it in big terms and I hope our guys don't, either."

This could be the best test of the season for the Celtics, who played their 15th home game Sunday night against Orlando.

The Celtics came into this game at 13-1 at the Garden, and their 8-2 road record signified the fewest losses by any team. The Magic came to Boston at 13-4 on the road, indicating that the Celtics have some catching up to do, having fattened up partly on a top-heavy schedule of home games. Only one other Eastern Conference team, Charlotte, had played as few at 10 road games.

In praising the Celtics, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was effusive, but had a warning.

"It's a credit to them that even with the talent they have and as many new people as they have, they're off to a great start. The challenge for them is to get out on the road. We have 10 more road games.

"But this team (Celtics) is for real. You don't have to look past their record or their stats to know what they're doing is the real deal."

Thus far, the Celtics haven't played more than two games in a row on the road, and none back-to-back. They've played 10 back-to-back games, going 5-0 on both ends. Four of the back-to-back sets were home-road games, one was a road-home set.

"The biggest challenge is four-in-five (four games in five nights)," Rivers said, adding that as crazy it sounds, that can work out on the road because players tend to get more rest. It's sometimes easier to be away on the holidays, too, because there are fewer demands on a player's personal life.

"We just have to do it," he said. "The key is that our bench plays well."

The Celtics return home to host Houston on Jan. 2. They'll play nine home games in January, six on the road. In February they'll face a 5-8 home-road split. Six of their nine final games in April will be on the road.

Unhappy Van Gundy

Van Gundy hasn't been very happy with his team, which came to Boston losers of six of eight games, including a 113-94 home loss to Utah Friday, after which he laid into his players for their lack of spirit.

"I stayed calm," he said. "I told them the truth. It's not gonna change until their approach to the game changes. They're not dumb people. We're in a little slide, we've gotten into some bad habits and have a little lethargy. We've had a lot of slippage and I don't know why. We just haven't played with much energy."


The Magic are only 5-6 at home. ... One reason for their problems: forward Rashard Lewis has been battling neck problems that forced him to miss one game and are requiring him to play at less than 100 percent efficiency. … The Magic came to Boston without ex-Celtic Tony Battie, who's out for the season after Oct. 24 rotator cuff surgery. … Asked if life were easier for him this season as he goes about his daily business, Rivers said, "I can get out of my car and self-pump (gas) now. Before I had to pay a guy because I didn't want to get shot." … Many of the Celtics were ensconced in the trainer's room watching the Patriots-Miami matchup prior to the game. … The Celtics will not practice Monday or Tuesday, and will board a 3 p.m. flight for Sacramento on Christmas Day.

The Patriot Ledger