Our friends at DraftKings has the over/under on the Celtics win total at 53.5, highest in the Eastern Conference with a game over the Bucks and second in the entire league, a game less than the defending champion Nuggets. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
There’s still 82-83 games to get through and how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Let’s break up the schedule in chunks:
at Knicks, Heat, at Wizards, Pacers, at Nets, at Timberwolves, at 76ers: Familiarity breeds contempt. The Celtics packed their preseason schedule with five games, including home-and-aways with Atlantic Division rivals New York and Philadelphia. They’ll now face both to start the 82-game marathon. This away-home-away-home-away-away-away gauntlet isn’t the friendliest start and it’s packed with obvious intrigue: an Eastern Conference Finals rematch with Miami, a visit to D.C. for Danilo Gallinari’s revenge game, and a pair of “try hard” teams in Indiana and Brooklyn. Boston has started the last two years 2-5 and 3-4. They could stumble out of the gate again (4-3).
Nets, Raptors, Knicks: A three-game homestand will also be the Celtics first three-games-in-four-nights stretch. We’ll most likely get our first look at how head coach Joe Mazzulla plans to deal with resting big men Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, and Robert Williams. Also note that the Brooklyn game starts the four-game round robin for the In-Season Tournament (3-0).
at 76ers, at Raptors, at Grizzlies, at Hornets: The team’s first reunion with Marcus Smart is on the front end of a back-to-back in Memphis. The following night, they’ll meet up with old friends Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward. Bring Kleenex. An interesting quirk in the 2023-2024 schedule is the two games in the City of Brotherly Love a week apart. It’s not a ton of mileage between Boston and Philadelphia, but the Celtics will be on the road for 9 of their first 14 games (3-1),
Bucks, at Magic, Hawks, Bulls, 76ers: At nearly the quarter mark, another homestand features bookend games against the Bucks and 76ers (for already the third time). The Orlando and Chicago contests are both Group C games. Don’t be surprised if this stretch is part of a multi-game win streak (5-0).
In-Season Tournament: The Celtics should come out of the group stage either as a qualifier or wild card and the quarterfinals as one of the best teams in at the 20-game mark. I won’t go as far to suggest that they’ll lift the inaugural NBA Cup in Vegas, but it should be a fairly successful week (2-1).
Cavs, Cavs, Magic, Magic: Back-to-home home-and-homes with a back-to-back against two of the up-and-coming teams in the East and both Cleveland and Orlando gave them trouble last year. It could get a little weird before heading out west for their annual team reset road trip (2-2).
at Warriors, at Kings, at Clippers, at Lakers: There’s always a building narrative when the Celtics visit the Western Conference for the first time of the year. It’s either galvanized them or worse, made the warts appear even bigger. All four California teams could be hosting first round series in April, so it won’t be easy. Just give me a Christmas gift and Beat LA, please (3-1).
Pistons, Raptors, at Spurs, at Thunder, Jazz, at Pacers, at Pacers: Last season, the Celtics should have been better than 24-10 against sub-.500 teams. These are games that contenders should feast on and get fat in the winter (5-2).
Timberwolves, at Bucks, Rockets, at Raptors, Spurs, Nuggets: Over the course of the week, the Celtics will be nationally televised in Milwaukee and at home hosting Nikola Jokic and Denver. They’ll want to put their best foot forward in those games, but there may not be more motivation than beating former head coach Ime Udoka when Houston comes to town (4-2).
at Rockets, at Mavericks, at Heat: Another game against their former coach, their former teammates Kyrie Irving and Grant Williams, and their forever foe in Miami. Make a statement (3-0).
Clippers, Pelicans, Pacers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Wizards: Another opportunity to gobble up wins with their longest homestand of the year. It features another weird home back-to-back (there are five total), but otherwise, these are all games that Boston will be favored in. The seven games on the parquet floor will also be a good opportunity for the front office to evaluate where the team is at. Ironically, the game against Washington (Porzingis’ former team) marks the league’s trade deadline. And speaking of, circle your calendars for Smart’s return home on February 4th (5-2).
at Heat, at Nets, Nets: It’s the final three games before All-Star Weekend. A game in South Beach is followed by a home-and-away against Brooklyn. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the key players aren’t already on vacation when the team plays at TD Garden on Valentine’s Day (1-2).
at Bulls, at Knicks, 76ers, Mavericks, Warriors: By my count, Boston should be nearing 45 wins at this point after winning 57 last year and 51 the year before. Per Positive Residual, the Celtics have “the most rest-advantage games at 16.” You’ll start seeing it here in February and March. After a week off after the All-Star Game, Boston doesn’t have any B2B’s going into March and a five-day stretch with only one game in the middle hosting the 76ers (4-1)...
Thread: The NBA Calendar app has been updated with the 2023-24 season schedule:https://t.co/d8vhOPsgHh— Positive Residual (@presidual) August 17, 2023
The Celtics have the most rest-advantage games at 16.
Additional insights below as I analyze the calendar. pic.twitter.com/rdRZHprfzf
at Cavaliers, at Nuggets, at Suns, at Blazers, at Jazz: ...but then it gets nasty. Twelve of the next fifteen games will be on the road as spring arrives. The first crisscrosses the country with stops in Cleveland then the Denver altitude then the Phoenix desert then the Pacific Northwest then finally Utah. Could be a troubling roadie after sitting pretty at home for so long (2-3).
Suns, at Wizards, Pistons, Bucks: A short respite at home is teeth-cutting time for the team. Yes, most of their work jockeying for playoff position should be done by now, but they’ll also want to land body blows against the league’s best. Jayson Tatum always steps up against Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. These are statement wins before the postseason hits the following month (3-1).
at Pistons, at Bulls, at Hawks, at Hawks, at Pelicans, at Hornets: It’s the longest road trip of the year, but with more manageable opponents. We could see some resting here with an eye for the playoffs and some final tryouts to solidify the rotation (4-2).
Thunder, Kings, Blazers, at Bucks, Knicks, Hornets, Wizards: Home sweet home. With only a midweek trip to Milwaukee to close out the year, the Celtics have a really good chance to use the final two weeks of the regular season to their advantage. If they need to hit the gas, there are winnable games on the slate. If they can coast a little, there’s room for that, too (5-2).
It doesn’t look like they’ll hit 60 wins, but all things considered, it’s a pretty favorable schedule, but like Larry Legend once said, “41 home games, 41 road games.” Or maybe it’s 42 road games. Who’s counting?