Jan. 3 Has Significant Meaning to These Celtics

BOSTON – What is Jan. 3 all about?

For most of us, it’s about getting to the gym, avoiding those sweets, reading that book, calling that family member. You know, typical New Year’s resolutions.

For the Boston Celtics, however, Jan. 3 is about making a statement.

The Celtics entered today with an NBA-leading 30 victories, including marquee triumphs over San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Golden State and Houston – which account for four of the top five seed in the West, and the No. 2 seed in the East. The Celtics have rattled off a league-best 16-game win streak this season. They have watched Kyrie Irving become a legitimate MVP candidate.

But they have yet to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. That matters, and they know it.

Cleveland, despite all of its early-season turmoil, still sits on the throne of the Eastern Conference, thanks in large part to the play of its king, LeBron James. James, too, is a legitimate MVP candidate – and quite possibly the frontrunner – thanks to his career-high shooting efficiency and assist percentage, a pair of scary numbers in season 15 of his career. He also just so happens to be averaging nearly 28 points a night.

The Cavaliers opened the season with a 5-7 record, but as they enter tonight’s highly-anticipated matchup with Boston at TD Garden, they trail the Celtics by only 3.5 games in the standings.

And they own a 16-5 record against the Celtics over the last three-plus seasons.

Tonight is Boston’s opportunity to show a national audience that this new season, with this new Celtics team, is different. It is its opportunity to show that the standings are indicative of where these two teams stand at this date and time; that it is indeed the superior team.

Those notions are still in question because Cleveland is the reigning conference champion with James on its roster, but also because the Celtics failed to make a statement on Opening Night.

As most NBA fans know full and well, Opening Night was a challenge for the Celtics. They were playing for the very first time with a brand-new team, and they lost their star free-agent acquisition, Gordon Hayward, less than six minutes into the game.

Boston fought against the odds, and it made a respectable run, but it still came up short, 102-99.

That’s just one reason why many on the outside of its locker room still favor the Cavaliers to come out of the Eastern Conference. Those outsiders have no evidence that these Celtics can beat these Cavaliers.

But all of that could end tonight, when, at 8 p.m., these two conference favorites will collide on the famed parquet floor.

This is Jan. 3, and for the Celtics, this day is all about making a statement.