The 2019-20 Boston Celtics season got off to a tough start on Wednesday, as the Celtics traveled to Philadelphia to face off against their arch-rival 76ers on opening night for the second consecutive season. Unlike last year, the debut was not a happy one: the Celtics fell to Philadelphia, 107-93, in a gritty, hotly contested matchup that ultimately saw Philadelphia simply overpower them on both ends of the court. Now, the Celtics are 0-1, and move forward looking to right the ship and build some positive momentum.
The Sixers were undoubtedly a tough draw for an opening game, but unfortunately, October will not bring much friendlier circumstances. Through the end of the month, the Celtics play three more games, and two of them will come against teams that — like Philadelphia — have serious aspirations towards making an impact in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Let’s take a look at what the Celtics will be up against as their brief-but-meaningful October comes to a close.
Friday, October 25: Boston Celtics vs Toronto Raptors
Moving ahead to Friday, the Celtics’ second game of the year comes against the defending champs, fresh off an exciting overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first game of the season.
Don’t let Kawhi Leonard’s departure fool you: the Raptors are still a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. They may not be a championship-level roster anymore, but unless Masai Ujiri opts for an unlikely fire sale at the trade deadline, they should contend for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. In a diminished Eastern Conference, they enjoy two key advantages: a relatively deep rotation and serious postseason experience.
Led by reigning Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam and the aging-but-reliable Kyle Lowry, the Raptors have the talent to finish among the East’s top four teams. With the most reasonable expectation for the Celtics landing around the same territory, that means that — funny as it may sound for just the second game of the entire season — this tilt could potentially have playoff seeding implications come April. Knocking off the Raptors in the home opener and avoiding an 0-2 start would be an undeniable positive for the new-look Celtics.
Saturday, October 26: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks
This is Boston’s easiest task of the month, as they travel to the Big Apple to face off against a Knicks team that appears ticketed for the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Knicks swung big this summer, dreaming of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in starring roles for their franchise at Madison Square Garden, but it’s hard to whiff much harder than they ultimately did. Durant and Irving joined the cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets, and the Knicks ended up with Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Boston alumnus Marcus Morris as consolation prizes. Not quite how they drew it up.
The Celtics will be heavily favored here, and rightfully so, but there’s still some let-down potential. Though it’s an easy matchup on paper, it does still come on the second night of a back-to-back, and such games always seem to bring the possibility of disappointment. After a tilt against the Raptors that will almost certainly be closely contested, there’s always some likelihood that a youthful team like the Knicks could catch the Celtics on their heels.
Given that it’s so early in the season, though, the level of fatigue you’d normally expect from the second night of a back-to-back shouldn’t play as much of a factor. This game still feels fairly safe, but perhaps we should all be knocking on wood, just to be sure.
Wednesday, October 30: Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks
Finally, the Celtics close out their brief-but-intense October with a tilt against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the erstwhile-60-win Milwaukee Bucks. Though they’re slightly diminished by the loss of Malcolm Brogdon, the Bucks remain the arguable favorite for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, with only the Sixers as realistic competition. This Milwaukee team has Finals-or-bust expectations, and rightfully so.
The obvious question here: how do the Celtics defend Antetokounmpo? The task of guarding the reigning MVP largely fell to the ever-reliable Horford last season, but in the absence of his services, the team will have to find new answers. Are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown capable of guarding the Greek Freak across more significant minutes? Is Semi Ojeleye ready to check him for more than just a few brief shifts at a time? Can Brad Stevens’ center-by-committee scheme produce a reasonable fail-safe to prevent him from getting to the basket? If none of the above prove to be possible, it could be a very long Wednesday night for the Boston Celtics.
With all this in mind, it seems like time to put it to a poll: realistically, what do you think the Celtics’ record will be when the calendar flips to November? Let us know your reasoning in the comments.
What will be the Celtics’ record at the end of October?
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