After starting the season with a majority of their games at home, the Boston Celtics are about to embark on a lengthy road stretch. They’ve had success on the road but haven’t faced the stiffest of competition.
That will soon change.
The Celtics (12-4) have played 10 times at home, but seven of their next eight will be away from Boston. They’re 5-1 on the road, playing against teams already jockeying for position in next year’s draft lottery.
Boston won at Cleveland 95-89 in its season opener, but the other teams it’s played on the road - Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Jersey, Indiana and New York - have a combined record of 15-63. The Celtics’ lone road defeat was 113-104 to the Pacers on Nov. 14.
Things likely won’t be as easy over this next stretch with three of the four teams on this trip - Miami (9-6), San Antonio and Oklahoma City - all boasting records over .500.
The Celtics arrive in Miami following Friday’s 116-103 victory over Toronto.
Somewhat surprisingly, the offense has been leading the way during this winning streak.
Ray Allen(notes) led six Celtics in double figures with 20 points Friday while Paul Pierce(notes) and Kendrick Perkins(notes) each added 18. Boston shot a season-best 62.3 percent from the field and is averaging 112.0 points in its last three.
While the offense is rolling, the defense hasn’t been up to the team’s normal standards.
Boston has yielded at least 100 points in each of its last three after letting two of its first 13 opponents top the century mark.
The defense came out flat again Friday and with his team trailing 55-54 at the half, coach Doc Rivers told his players, “The first team that plays defense wins, guys.”
The Celtics responded by forcing four turnovers during a 13-0 run early in the second half and limited the Raptors to 17 third-quarter points.
“We did defend, and it turned the game around for us,” Rivers said. “We were just having a feel-good game: You score, pat them on the back, and then they score. We call it ‘Buddy Ball.’ Then we stopped.”
They’ll try to get their defensive issues straightened out against a Miami team that has scored 100 or more four times.
The Heat are coming off Friday’s 94-84 loss to Washington, their fourth defeat in six games after opening 7-2.
Wade had a difficult time getting in rhythm, finishing 6 of 19 from the field for 18 points, his second-fewest of the season.
“I just have to concentrate on hitting more shots,” said Wade, averaging 27.1 points. “They threw a lot of double teams at me but I have to find a way to work around it and get more open shots.”
Wade didn’t have much trouble scoring against the Celtics last season, averaging 29.3 points on 50.9 percent shooting in three games. Despite Wade’s solid production, the Heat went 1-3 against Boston and have lost eight of the last nine meetings.
Allen led the way for the Celtics against Miami in 2008-09, averaging 25.0 points and shooting 63.6 percent (14 of 22) from 3-point range in three games.