Celtics have chance to vault forward with 9 of next 12 at home

A. Sherrod Blakely
NBC Sports Boston

Celtics have chance to vault forward with 9 of next 12 at home originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com

BOSTON -- In what has been a wildly inconsistent season for the Boston Celtics (28-18), they have found a tremendous amount of comfort in playing in front of their home crowd, having won their last eight at the TD Garden.

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And that more than anything else is why this upcoming stretch of games prior to the All-Star game has a make-or-break feel to it for Boston. 

Between now and then, the Celtics have 12 games with nine being at the TD Garden. 

Of those 12 foes, seven are currently among the top eight teams in their respective conferences and are thus a playoff-caliber foe. 

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While that might make most a bit apprehensive about Boston's chances of success against good competition, here's what we know about this team. 

The better the opponent, the better they tend to play.

So based on how they have performed this season, this is an ideal slate of opponents for Boston to face heading into the break with what they hope will be some significant momentum as well as a few more wins to close the gap between them and the teams ahead of them in the standings. 

Boston is currently fifth in the Eastern conference, just 1.5 games behind fourth-place Philadelphia and six games behind Conference leaders Milwaukee and Toronto. 

But as we've come to know all too well with the Celtics, looking too far down the road can get you in trouble. 

So we'll keep the focus on this upcoming week which includes a trio of games at home beginning with the Miami Heat on Monday. 

Against the Heat, the Celtics will be looking to exact some revenge following a 115-99 loss which came on the second night of a back-to-back set of games for Boston. 

More memorable than the outcome, was an incident involving Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a time-out in which Morris pushes Brown and Marcus Smart steps in between the two. (If only they could have returned the favor for Smart last night).

That incident was one of a series of developments that raised some concerns as to whether the team meeting the Celtics had earlier this month following a home loss to Milwaukee (their last home loss this season), had in fact resolved the issues that led them beginning the season with a 10-10 start. 

Both players downplayed the incident afterwards, and since then there has been no noticeable beef between the two.

As for the game, doing a better job defending the 3-point shot will be a priority for Boston. 

Miami came into that game averaging 11.7 made three-pointers per game which ranked eighth in the NBA. 

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Against the Celtics, Miami had 18 made 3-pointers compared to just 12 for the Celtics. 

After the Heat game, the Celtics will return to action on Wednesday and host the Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland (9-38) has the worst record in the NBA, with no signs of improvement on the horizon anytime soon. Their best player, Kevin Love, is still out with a toe injury and it's looking more like he won't return until sometime shortly before or after the All-Star break. 

This is a game that the Celtics should win with little problem. 

When the two met earlier this season, the Celtics won by a decisive 128-95 margin with seven players reaching double figures scoring led by Kyrie Irving's game-high 29 points against his former team. 

That leaves us to the game Celtics fans have been eagerly awaiting to see all season, with the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors coming to town for a Saturday night battle between two teams many still anticipate will face off in the NBA Finals this spring.

The Warriors are still the best of the best in the NBA this season, with the only real difference being that they don't dominate as much as they used to. But that could change in the coming weeks, as the Warriors got a major boost this week with offseason signee DeMarcus Cousins seeing his first action of the season after being out with a torn left Achilles injury suffered about a year ago. 

Cousins gives Golden State an inside-outside big man who talent-wise, ranks among the league's best.  Boston's depth has been often used to describe what sets them apart from other teams. If they are to close this week out with a win over Golden State, that depth will have to be front and center on Saturday. 

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