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Boston Celtics

How the Boston Celtics Western Conference road trip can fuel their postseason push

#Morris #Hayward
Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward (NBA Getty Images)

On Monday, the Celtics were set to embark on a tough trip out West to face each of the league's four teams in California.

As they prepared to fly out West, Boston had lost five of its previous six games, and it was beginning to appear that things were falling apart for one of the league's most talented teams. It didn't help that the first test of the trip was a visit to ORACLE Arena to face the defending-champion Warriors.

Through the first two games of the trip, this once-struggling C's team is now 2-0

Suddenly, the outlook surrounding the final 16 games of the Celtics season is much more positive. It isn't just that Boston managed to win these games, either - it's the ways in which they've done it.

Tuesday night it was a record-breaking 33-point win over Golden State in which Gordon Hayward came off the bench to score a game-high 30 points (on 12-for-16 shooting), grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists while he was Plus-32 in the 27 minutes he was on the floor.

In the five games prior to the trip, Hayward averaged just 5.2 points, 3.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 30.8 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from 3-point range.

It appeared that the one-time All-Star might have gotten his swagger back, but one game might have been too little to put stock into.

Boston had to quickly refocus as it made its way to Sacramento for the second game of a back-to-back; the already-difficult task of getting past the Kings became harder when it was announced that the Celtics would be without Kyrie Irving.

Down its lone All-Star, Boston was forced to look elsewhere for contributions but ultimately earned a narrow win over a young Sacramento team that is currently fighting for its playoff life.

Jayson Tatum, who led the way with a team-high 24 points, was one of six Celtics players to score in double figures on the night.

Hayward was another.

In 29 minutes of action, Hayward again came off the bench to finish with 12 points (on 6-for-10 shooting) including the game-winner with 2.0 seconds remaining in regulation.

Following a 30-point performance over the defending champs with a game-winner? The guy just might have his swagger back after all.

With just over a month remaining in the regular season, it's imperative that this über-talented roster begins to figure things out in order to see sustained postseason success. The re-emergence of Hayward over the past two games should be a major cause of optimism for the Celtics.

In the bigger picture, Hayward's shot over the Kings serves as a reminder that he, along with Irving, Tatum, Marcus Morris and Al Horford can be called upon to make plays down the stretch of a close game.

With the Lakers and Clippers awaiting on the back-end of the Celtics' trip, it shouldn't be overlooked that Wednesday's win over the Kings ensured that the team will go at least .500 on their journey out West.

But it's bigger than the trip itself.

Boston is just a few days removed from trending downwards, and while it might be too soon to say the team has completely turned things around, winning the first two games on a make-or-break road trip allows the team to build momentum during the stretch run.

The Celtics are back in action Saturday night as they take on LeBron James and the Lakers at the Staples Center.

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