- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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In a season defined by inconsistencies, the Celtics have routinely done at least one thing this year: win on the road.
Boston improved to 23-12 away from home with Friday's 94-87 triumph over the Rockets in Houston. The Celtics boast the second-best road record in the NBA behind only Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland at 25-11.
Boston is one of only three teams in the East to have a winning record on the road. The other two teams -- Cleveland and Orlando -- have combined for a total of 11 home losses, while the Celtics are a mere 21-12 at home this year, already posting the same amount of losses as they had combined over the past two seasons when Boston was 35-6 at home in both campaigns.
Yet, something about the road brings out the best in Boston.
"The road is hostile," forward Kevin Garnett said after Friday's win. "You expect the worst, and that's what it is. Maybe we're too confident at home."
While Boston's season has been a seesaw since the end of December, the Celtics have now won three straight and show signs of building momentum over the final five weeks of the regular season.
Road success is often a quality indicator of playoff success. The Celtics put together an NBA-best 31-10 mark on the road during the 2007-08 campaign, the year they brought home banner No. 17. The second-best road team that year? The Los Angeles Lakers, the team that Boston beat in the NBA Finals, had a road mark of 27-14.
Ironically, Boston lost the first six road games it played during that 2008 postseason before coming up with big road wins over the Pistons and Lakers in the final two rounds (most notably the Game 4 comeback at the Staples Center against L.A.).
The team with the best road record in the NBA in 2008-09? The world champion Lakers at 29-12. Boston, Orlando and Cleveland all tied with 27-14 road marks, but it was the Magic that won a crucial Game 7 at the TD Garden (then stole Game 1 in Cleveland) to help them advance to the Finals.
Road success cannot be undervalued.
But Celtics coach Doc Rivers isn't buying that regular-season success on the road translates to the second season.
"It doesn't mean anything," Rivers said. "Nothing means nothing, winning on the road or not winning at home, once you get into the playoffs it doesn't matter. It's good that we have veterans because veterans will always play well on the road. We have great confidence with them.
"Crowd noise -- half of them are deaf right? -- they're so old, they can't hear it anyway. So maybe that's an advantage."
With the recent addition of Michael Finley, the Celtics are the second-oldest team in the league at an average of 29.5 years old. That's behind only Dallas, the team they visit Saturday in the second night of a back-to-back, at an average of 30.8 years old.
But the Celtics' success on the road hasn't been hindered by the grueling back-to-backs this season. The Green improved to 8-4 on the first night of a back-to-back opening on the road with Friday's win (they're 0-3 in those games at home this season) and Boston is 4-3 on the second night of back-to-backs on the road this year.
Rivers noted that his team anticipated being this good on the road, and that it simply hasn't met expectations at home -- though three straight lopsided wins at the Garden over the past week-plus have created a bit of optimism.
"We expected to be this good on the road, we didn't expect to be this bad at home," Rivers said. "There's nothing we can do about it. As far as home, we can play better, which we're starting to do; and if we continue to play well on the road, we'll be in good shape."
A couple of weeks back, Celtics center Kendrick Perkins suggested that some in the Boston locker room didn't particularly care about playoff seeding or home-court advantage because of the team's success away from the Garden this season.
Sometimes you can't help but wonder if this team truly would be well-served to play the biggest games of the postseason away from home.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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