Celtics Face Daunting, Exciting Shortened Slate

BOSTON – When the NBA’s schedule makers were assigned the task of squeezing a 66-game schedule into approximately four months, every team in the league knew exactly what that to expect: a daunting challenge.

The season has been shortened by nearly two months, but only 16 games have been taken off of the schedule. That means that every team in the league will be playing a lot of competitive basketball this season, without a lot of practice or down time.

For the Boston Celtics, there are enough intricacies in their 2011-12 schedule to fill up a 3,000-word article, but to sum it up in just a few, there is the good, and there is also the bad. And that is the case on many different levels.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce and the Celtics will tip off their season in Madison Square Garden, where they swept the Knicks out of the playoffs last season.

The Celtics will face challenges from Game 1, which will take place against the Knicks at noon on Christmas Day in New York, until the regular season concludes on April 26. Scattered between those two dates are 19 back-to-backs and one frightening – yet expected – back-to-back-to-back. That’s as many back-to-backs as Boston experienced in six months of last season, and one more back-to-back-to-back than it has experienced in the past 12 seasons combined.

That is the bad of the Celtics’ schedule when it comes to consecutive games. But as we’ve already pointed out, there is a good side to note as well.

Although Boston is saddled with 19 back-to-backs, 13 of them are split between wrapping up on the road and at home. Luckily for Boston, more than half of those 13 tail-end games (seven, to be exact) will take place in the confines of TD Garden. Having a home crowd behind you in that second game is certainly an added bonus.

When it comes to the dreaded back-to-back-to-back stretch, the C’s also lucked out, at least judging by the recent success of the teams that they’ll be playing in those games. The three consecutive games will take place from April 13-15, in Toronto, New Jersey and Charlotte, respectively. None of those opponents made the playoffs last season, and they combined for a record of 80-166.

Boston will also have a favorable start to the season. Though they will tip off the season with a three-game road trip that includes games against the likes of New York and Miami, what follows that road trip is easy on the eyes. Twelve of the next 17 games will be played at home, and four of the five away games will be against teams that did not make the playoffs last season. In January and February combined, Boston will play 19 of its 29 games at home.

Opening up the schedule in that manner over the first couple of months of the season means the second half of the season will feature plenty of challenging stretches. And they sure are difficult.

For instance, take Boston’s season-long road trip into consideration. The Celtics will be on hiatus from Boston for two full weeks while playing an eight-game road trip that begins on the West Coast and works its way across the country back to the East Coast. That road trip is double – yes, double – the length of last season’s longest road trip.

The trip includes four opponents that made the playoffs last season, as well as four non-playoff teams that possess some of the best young talent in the league. Think Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings.

Once that roadie wraps up in late March, the Celtics can take a slight breather with their next four games, which are all against teams that did not make the playoffs last season. Things will heat right back up on the first day of April, though, as the Celtics will host Miami at 3:30 a.m. on ABC. That game will be followed by a back-to-back set that begins with the Spurs (home), who had the best record in the West last season, and concludes with the Bulls (away), who had the best record in the league.

In addition to that difficult trio of games in April, the C’s will also be faced with that back-to-back-to-back later in the month as playoff seeding begins takes shape. Overall in April, Boston will play 10 of its 15 games against teams that made the playoffs last season.

Many of those difficult games will also be aired for the entire country to watch. Twenty-four of Boston’s 66 games will be broadcast on national television (ABC, ESPN, TNT), including eight in April. Seven more Celtics games will make their way onto NBATV throughout the season.

As always, the Celtics will also be in position to foster some holiday cheer with their play. They will be in action for five holidays this season, and those games are as follows:

  • Christmas Day – 12 p.m., Dec. 25 at New York
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – 8 p.m., Jan. 16 vs. Oklahoma City
  • St. Patrick’s Day – 7 p.m., March 17 at Denver
  • Easter Sunday – 6 p.m., April 8 vs. Philadelphia
  • Patriot’s Day – 8 p.m., April 18 vs. Orlando

Boston’s schedule is filled with its ups and its downs, but that’s the case during every season. Will this road be more difficult to navigate than that of a typical season? Most definitely. But such is the case for every team in the league.

The Celtics aren’t the type of team to back down from a challenge, even if it is daunting. In fact, Doc Rivers will likely preach his players into embracing it.

That’s just how things operate in Boston.

That’s how championships are won.


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