Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla said it doesn’t matter where his team plays, as it heads out on a six-game road trip, as long as they execute and create momentum. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics are heading on a six-game road trip that will take them through four time zones starting Saturday. After a feel-good win over the Blazers, it’s a chance to build on some success and create momentum at a crucial juncture of their season.

But Coach Joe Mazzulla couldn’t care less about where they’re playing for the next 11 days.

“The road trip doesn’t matter,” the Celtics coach said after Thursday’s practice. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing at home or on the road. We have to play the games, we have to have the habits, we have to execute. So I don’t really give a crap about the road trip.

“What I care about is the carryover and the awareness to the execution, how we manage the game and what that looks like when we do it well, and what it looks like when we don’t do it well.”

Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon said earlier this week the goal of the road trip is to go undefeated. On paper, that’s attainable. Four of the six games are against opponents with records of .500 or worse, but they finish the trip against the surging Kings, who are second in the Western Conference.

With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics are focused on playing with a sense of urgency to get in a groove before the playoffs. A long trip like this with several winnable games could help.


“Just for the simple fact of it’s not that many regular season games left and this thing is getting ready to start off and get off to the races,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “So, for us, being able to know that we don’t have any games left in the regular season, that we need to come together, and we need to start acting like this is it for us and every game matters and get into that rhythm. And I think that’s just gonna help us continue to be closer.”

The Celtics are two games behind the Bucks for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference, but they’re keeping the focus on themselves instead of worrying about chasing the top seed.

“I think the situation that we’re in right now, we can’t really control what seed we get from the standpoint of we can’t get to the No. 1 seed by things that are out of our control,” Mazzulla said. “I think it’s more about the same habits that were at the beginning of the year. We gotta focus on what we do well and then can we do it for long stretches at a time. I think there’s such a small separation in the NBA of a great team to a really good team and those come down to overtime games, possessions, end of quarters, all those little things.

“The more that we just build an awareness to those, manage those, and work through this, I think that’s gonna help us a lot.”

SMART WAS LISTENING when Raptors guard Fred VanVleet blasted NBA official Ben Taylor as well as officiating across the league after Toronto’s loss to the Clippers on Wednesday.

“I thought Ben Taylor was (expletive) terrible tonight,” VanVleet said. “Most nights, out of the three (officials), there’s one or two that just (expletive) the game up. It’s been like that a couple games in a row. … Most of the refs are trying hard. I like a lot of the refs, they’re trying hard, they’re pretty fair, they communicate well, but then you have the other ones who just want to be (expletive) and it just kind of (expletive) the game up. Nobody’s coming to see that (expletive). They’re coming to see the players. I think we’re losing a little bit of the fabric of what the NBA is and was, and it’s been disappointing this season.”


VanVleet later added: “There’s a fine line, obviously. I understand that. But I think the jurisdiction and the power trip that we’ve been on this year with some of our officials in this league is getting out of hand. I’ll take my fine for speaking on it, but it’s (expletive) ridiculous.”

Smart has run into heavy foul trouble in recent games and asked Thursday about the way he’s been called, he referenced VanVleet.

“I don’t know if you guys have seen Fred VanVleet’s interview,” Smart said. “That’s all I’m gonna say. Obviously, it lets you know that I’m not speaking out of my butt. And I’m not the only one that feels that way. So I’m gonna let Fred do all the talking.”

Smart said that during his career, there have been multiple officials he feels have had personal vendettas against him.

“They have bad days, just like we do,” Smart said. “So it’s only fair to notice and understand and have empathy in the fact that sometimes they’re gonna let their emotions get the best of them and make calls and judgment calls the way that they officiate. It happens. As players we just want that consistency. Just like for us, we get emotional, too. But, for us, we get in trouble for it. And we just want that consistency around. And that’s it. So I had that in the past but, like I said, I’m going to let Fred do all my talking around that.”

SMART SAID HE “re-tweaked” his right ankle, the one he sprained in January that forced him to miss 11 games, on Wednesday but “everything is good.” … Payton Pritchard, who missed Wednesday’s game with heel pain, could have an extended absence, according to Mazzulla. The coach isn’t sure what the guard’s timetable is, but said Pritchard is dealing with a lot of pain. … Robert Williams (hamstring) is set to join the Celtics on the road trip and could return next week.

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