The NBA finally released their schedule for the upcoming NBA season this past Friday. For the Boston Celtics, December seems to be their toughest stretch of games for 2018-2019.
This past Friday, the NBA released the much anticipated regular season schedule for the upcoming 2018-2019 season. Games are set to begin on October 16, when the Philadelphia 76ers will face the Boston Celtics at 8 ET, and then the Oklahoma City Thunder will go head-to-head with the Golden State Warriors immediately after. Both contests are on TNT.
The Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup will be highly anticipated for both Boston fans and Philly fans. Both teams will feature superstars in Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
In all, the Boston Celtics will face the Sixers four times throughout the year, one of those times occurring in December; which seems to be the toughest point of the year for Boston. Let’s delve into why December may cause some problems for a loaded Celtics team.
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Tough road stretch
From December 27-31, the C’s have to travel the central United States for difficult contests with the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, and San Antonio Spurs, in that order.
Houston was the best team in the Western Conference in 2017-2018, finishing with a phenomenal record of 65-17, and making the Western Conference Finals where they were one historically bad performance away from dethroning the Golden State Warriors. Houston was also one bad blown lead away from sweeping the season series with the Celtics in 2017-2018.
Houston has also added Carmelo Anthony to an already deep roster (although one could argue that’s a downgrade from a formidable defender in Trevor Ariza).
Memphis, on the other hand, witnessed one of their worst seasons during the Marc Gasol era, finishing 22-60, the second-worst record in the league. However, Chandler Parsons will be back from injury, and the Griz were able to acquire Michigan State star Jaren Jackson Jr. in the first round of the 2018 draft in June.
Jackson should bolster an offense that finished second-to-last in points per game in 2017, according to NBA stats. Memphis also signed Shelvin Mack to a small deal according to ESPN. acting as an attempt to have some viable backup for Mike Conley. The squad is still young and inexperienced, but after a bloodbath with Houston, the Boston Celtics can definitely experience problems with Memphis.
Finally, the Boston Celtics end the road stretch (and 2018) with a crucial game against San Antonio. Sure, Kawhi Leonard is gone, but DeMar DeRozan seems out for blood, especially after he was sneakily traded to the Spurs for the aforementioned Leonard.
Also, playing against the Celtics his entire career helps (with Toronto), considering he probably knows the ins and outs of the team. Going up against a Gregg Popovich team, in general, is never fun after a week-long trip away from home. Although San Antonio finished as the eighth seed in 2017-2018, their squad’s more experienced and feisty, something that can be very annoying mid-way through a long season.
Difficult conference games
Boston must face a tough, well-coached Milwaukee Bucks team with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on the 23rd, and then prepare themselves for a mid-afternoon Christmas game against Philly.
Both will surely be a test for Boston and should determine where they stand amongst the hierarchy in the Eastern Conference. By then, we should get a glimpse of where their season is heading as well.
The New York Knicks in the early portion of the month is no piece of cake either. New coach David Fizdale has a multitude of young talent, especially with Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Knox, the latter of which played phenomenally in summer league.
The Kentucky product surprisingly shined, putting together 21.3 points-per-game, good for first amongst true rookies, according to NBA.com. He showed flashes of pristine playmaking ability, as well as a knack for getting to the rim.
Don’t forget, he was another player that received boos from Knicks fans when he was drafted ninth. Second-year guard Frank Ntilikina is looking to make big leaps after a solid rookie campaign as well.
The C’s also have a game against their arch-rival Washington Wizards on the 12th. These events are always bloodbaths and should be worth watching.
The Boston Celtics were 1-3 against the Wizards in 2017-2018, with one of the games going to double overtime, and ending in heartbreaking fashion for Boston. to be fair, the C’s dealt with a multitude of injuries when they faced Washington twice, one of them being Irving.
Other notable games
Other games during December that could give Boston trouble are home contests against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, as well as a challenging visit to Minnesota for a big game against Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves (Kyrie’s best friend apparently). Both games will be on NBATV.