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Celtics’ schedule analysis and a shot at 60-plus wins


The cliche goes that a team takes it a game at a time. However, expectations already have some fans buy playoff tickets, scheduling Finals reservations, or making duck boat plans. With the full NBA schedule now officially out, it puts next season into focus. While Larry Bird’s old line about “41 home, 41 away…looks about right” still rings true, not all schedules are built the same. Here are some insights from yesterday’s announcement:

Let’s get to brass tacks. We’ve seen projections for the Celtics anywhere between 53 and 57.5 with some experts predicting a special season of 60+ wins. That’s winning nearly three out of every four games. To put this into the perspective of an 82-game season, let’s break up the schedule into 4-7 game chunks:

10/16 76ers, 10/19 @Raptors, 10/20 @Knicks, 10/22 Magic: With training camp leading into the Opening Night showdown vs. Philadelphia and then three days to prepare for a trip to Toronto, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that the Celtics will start the season undefeated. 4-0

10/25 @Thunder, 10/27 @Pistons, 10/30 Pistons, 11/1 Bucks: As Sean Grande noted, there’s a ton of travel in the early part of the season and I could see the team dropping a game in Oklahoma City or at home against Milwaukee. 3-1

11/3 @Pacers, 11/5 @Nuggets, 11/8 @Suns, 11/9 @Jazz, 11/11 @Trailblazers: Five games, five cities, nine nights. It may not seem like a murder’s row of Western Conference teams, but three of them are playoff contenders with two reunions (Gordon Hayward back in Utah and Isaiah Thomas potentially playing his first game against the Celtics) to add juice to a regular season game. 3-2

11/14 Chicago, 11/16 Raptors, 11/17 Jazz, 11/19 @Hornets, 11/21 Knicks: A nice respite before heading back on the road. It’s the second meeting against the Raptors in less than a month. 5-0

11/23 @Hawks, 11/24 @Mavericks, 11/26 @Pelicans: Three-games-in-four-nights after Thanksgiving. Expect some days off for guys like Hayward and Al Horford. 2-1

11/30 Cavaliers, 12/1 @Timberwolves: A little scheduling quirk where the Celtics have only two games over more than a week. 2-0

12/6 Knicks, 12/8 @Bulls, 12/10 Pelicans, 12/12 @Wizards, 12/14 Hawks, 12/15 @Pistons: This seems like an easy stretch with games basically spaced out with a day of rest and then a B2B at the end, but it’s a ton of travel between home and away, even against a few lottery teams. 4-2

12/19 Suns, 12/21 Bucks, 12/23 Hornets, 12/25 76ers: Another nice home stretch before the Christmas Day showdown with the Sixers. I’d expect rotations to be locked in by Brad Stevens and the team humming at this point. 4-0

12/27 @Rockets, 12/29 @Grizzlies, 12/31 @Spurs: At this point, the Celtics could be nearing a double-digit win streak. It continues with strong wins in Texas. 3-0

1/2 Timberwolves, 1/4 Mavericks, 1/7 Nets, 1/9 Pacers, 1/10 @Heat, 1/12 @Magic, 1/14 @Nets: Boston needs to pad their league standings during this seven game stretch. There’s a back-to-back against tough teams, but taking care of business should be a priority. This is where teams can get fat on bad teams looking to potentially tank. 6-1

1/16 Raptors, 1/18 Grizzlies, 1/19 @Hawks: The Celtics’ third meeting against Toronto will be on ESPN. Barring injuries, Boston could be scorching at this point and this winter meeting between Atlantic division rivals will set the narrative for the home stretch before the All Star break. 3-0

1/21 Heat, 1/23 Cavaliers, 1/26 Warriors, 1/28 Nets, 1/30 Hornets: It’s the Celtics only five-game homestand that could feature a Finals preview with Golden State at TD Garden for a prime time ABC game. 5-0

2/1 @Knicks, 2/3 Thunder, 2/5 @Cavaliers, 2/7 Lakers, 2/9 Clippers, 2/12 @76ers, 2/13 Pistons: There’s always a swoon. Whether it’s Kyrie Irving’s first trip to Madison Square Garden and the narrative of him playing for his hometown team, LeBron James sucking the air out of the Garden, or the specter of the February 7th trade deadline with the Lakers in town, I see three losses to open February and heading into ASW. The Celtics have a 44-10 and Brad Stevens coaches his second All Star team. 4-3

2/21 @Bucks, 2/23 @Bulls, 2/26 @Raptors, 2/27 Trailblazers, 3/1 Wizards, 3/3 Rockets: The second half of the season is tough, particularly right after All Star Weekend. A mini-road trip followed by a mini-home stand against a bunch of playoff teams. 4-2

3/5 @Warriors, 3/6 @Kings, 3/9 @Lakers, 3/11 @Clippers: A week in California with two marquee games. Beat LA (and the Kings because we own their pick). 3-1

3/14 Kings, 3/16 Hawks, 3/18 Nuggets: Thomas goes off in his return to Boston, but the Celtics are tuning up for the playoffs. 3-0

3/20 @76ers, 3/23 @Hornets, 3/24 Spurs, 3/26 @Cavaliers, 3/29 Pacers, 3/30 @Nets: Hopefully, seeding won’t be an issue at this point and the Celtics can start taking their foot off the gas and start resting their players for April. Guerschon Yabusele dabs, Jabari Bird gets some run, and Robert Williams puts up a 20-10-5 game. 4-2

4/1 Heat, 4/3 @Heat, 4/5 @Pacers, 4/7 Magic, 4/9 @Wizards: The home-and-home with the Heat followed by the Pacers could be a stumbling block if the Celtics need to clinch the top seed, but expect more DNP’s for Boston’s best players. The Celtics finish 65-17, just a game off the 2008 championship team. 3-2

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