PHILADELPHIA — The Celtics spent Saturday night on call, waiting for a potential opportunity to jump on a plane to blizzard-plagued Philadelphia.
As the snow pelted the Delaware Valley throughout Saturday evening, that call never came. So the Celtics arrived in Philadelphia for their game against the 76ers on Sunday at approximately 10 a.m.
With Saturday's postponement, Sunday's game against the 76ers suddenly became the first of a back-to-back set, with Monday's game in Washington against the Wizards. The Celtics didn't seem too fazed by their travel adjustment, coasting to a 112-92 victory.
"We told the guys they had to be on call [Saturday]," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "We exhausted all of our travel options Friday night and [Saturday] and we're fortunate that it cleared up and we were able to get in without any issues [Sunday] morning."
NBA players are generally creatures of habit and many haven't arrived in a city only hours before a game perhaps since college.
"It's been a while since I did that," swingman Jonas Jerebko said of the same-day travel. "But it's no big deal. We got some good sleep. It was an hour flight. We got some more sleep at the hotel and here we are. So it's not really a big difference. You're always used to traveling a day before the game, but we've just got to be able to go out there and do our job."
What may have benefited the Celtics was getting an unexpected Saturday practice.
"We needed the practice," Stevens said. "I was pleased with how we defended in the Chicago game. I thought we had moments [the three previous games] but we just weren't as good as we had been. So hopefully we can get back to being a more consistent defensive team, starting with Friday's game and [Saturday's] practice."
Stevens said he thought the Celtics improved against the Bulls, despite struggling in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we were really locked [in], really engaged," Stevens said. "Our guards did a good job of getting into the ball. We did struggle with the downhill pick-and-rolls, but the defensive efficiency was a lot more back to what we had been."
The Celtics held Philadelphia to 39.3 percent shooting and forced 23 turnovers, one shy of a season high.
Back with big club
The Celtics recalled swingman James Young and guards R.J. Hunter, and Terry Rozier from the NBADL Maine Red Claws, giving the roster depth.
Hunter spent four games with the Red Claws and said he was grateful for the minutes after losing his small role with the Celtics. In four games with Maine, Hunter averaged 13.7 points and 3.3 assists, playing alongside Rozier at shooting guard.
"It was up and down but I was just trying to go work on things that I can incorporate here since I'm not seeing [that much time]," said Hunter. "I thought I played hard, though. So everything will fall into place."
Hunter earned minutes in the early going and even played four consecutive games with double-digit minutes in mid-December before being the victim of Stevens's tightened rotation.
He played one minute in the Jan. 15 win against the Phoenix Suns before being sent to Maine.
"The primary thing I want to do is just see [action]," he said. "You just sit and watch; you forget kind of how it is to be in the feel of a game. Defensively, just working on the little stuff and pick-and-roll, I was guarding the [point guard] a lot. Just getting a lot of pick-and-roll action."
Rozier made two free throws in five minutes of play Sunday, while Hunter played just two uneventful minutes.
The numbers in the NBADL are inflated. Marginal NBA players can go down there and put up triple-doubles in the defense-optional league, so true improvement may be more difficult for Hunter to determine.
"Every day I was just completing my game, totally," he said. "I knew I got a reputation as a shooter but I think just when I go down there I do a little of things, just little things that I think people don't see. It's kind of cool to see how rounded your game is and you haven't even been playing [much].
"The player development in the Celtics is just crazy [good] and it's kind of good how they set me up. It's refreshing when you come back because you don't realize how blessed you are until you see your situation. More grateful than ever that I'm back up here and not taking anything for granted."