Marcus Smart defends Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic

The 10 Most Underrated Games on Boston's Schedule

BOSTON – By now, everyone knows the marquee games on Boston’s 2019-20 schedule. What everyone doesn’t know are the sleeper games that should also be garnering plenty of attention.

That’s why we’re here. You’re welcome.

We’ve weaved through the entire 82-game schedule and plucked out the 10 most underrated games of the season, including both home and away contests. Take a read below to find the other dates on your calendar that should be circled in green.

No. 10 - Monday, Jan. 13 vs. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have been one of the more inept squads in the league over the last two seasons. Expect that to change this season.

Chicago has a lot of 2018-19-Kings in them, in that they have a ton of young talent that may be ready to outperform expectations. Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. are all known quantities in the league who demand respect, and Chicago’s roster doesn’t end there. The Bulls this summer added quality veterans in Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, and they have two highly-touted youngsters in Wendell Carter Jr. and rookie Coby White.

This Bulls team going to be very competitive and fun to watch.

No. 9 – Friday, Jan. 3 vs. Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta is no joke. It finished last season going 10-13 over its final 23 games, and four of those losses were by six points or fewer. Another loss came by seven points in a quadruple-overtime game. Behind youngsters Trae Young and John Collins, the Hawks landed on everyone’s radar.

During the offseason, Atlanta added veterans Evan Turner, Jabari Parker and Chandler Parsons, and also drafted De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish – two top-10 picks. These Hawks have a chance to fly. This should be a good one on the first Friday of 2020.

No. 8 – Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Indiana Pacers

Indiana was rolling last season before Victor Oladipo went down. Now, Oladipo is back, and he’s got some reinforcements.

Indiana retained its core of Oladipo, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and supplemented it with proven vets like Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb and Justin Holiday. The Pacers have the talent and versatility to be one of the best defensive teams in the league, particularly on the perimeter.

No. 7 – Saturday, Jan. 18 vs. Phoenix Suns

Remember when Devin Booker hung 70 on the Boston Celtics back on March 24, 2017? Yeah, the Celtics haven’t forgotten either.

That memory adds fuel to this matchup’s fire during every meeting. Add in the fact that Phoenix finally appears to be on track to respectability with the signing of head coach Monty Williams and the recent additions of DeAndre Ayton, Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Dario Saric, Tyler Johnson, Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes, and the Suns have a team that is balanced, talented and dangerous.

The return of Baynes, a former fan favorite in Boston, to TD Garden will only make this night even more fun.

No. 6 – Friday, April 3 vs. Orlando Magic

Orlando snapped a six-year playoff drought by earning the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference last season. All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross were retained to continue playing alongside solid vets in Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. Expect Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba to make leaps this season, and for Al-Farouq Aminu to add another reliable threat to the rotation.

Also note that Markelle Fultz, who has toiled in the NBA abyss since Boston chose not to select him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, could be playing heavy minutes on a Friday night at TD Garden while these two teams battle for playoff position.

No. 5 – Monday, Nov. 11 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Dallas may be the most talented team in the league that simultaneously stands as an unknown.

Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic leads the Mavs’ charge, and he’ll now be joined by Kristaps Porzingis, which raises a bunch of questions.

How will these two European talents fit together? How rusty will Porzingis be after missing more than a season with a torn left ACL? Will Porzingis remain healthy for the whole season?

Dallas surrounds these two highly-talented players with a quality crew of role players led by Seth Curry, J.J. Barea, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Boban Marjonovic. Still, the questions remain as to how this team, led by its new Big 2, will fit together.

No. 4 – Wednesday, Feb. 26 at Utah Jazz

There may be no game on Boston’s schedule that falls higher on the Difficulty Scale than this one.

First and foremost, the Jazz are really good. Utah is one of the most talented teams in the league, led by Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and newcomers Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Secondly, this game will be played in the high altitude of Salt Lake City, where the Jazz went 29-12 last season.

Lastly, this game will be played on the second night of a back-to-back, at the end of a four-game road trip, and on national television on ESPN.

No. 3 – Wednesday, Nov. 13 vs. Washington Wizards

This game creates serious intrigue for one reason and one reason only: Isaiah Thomas.

Isaiah Thomas should finally get a chance to play healthy and heavy minutes for the first time since departing the Celtics two summers ago. Last season, he played six-plus scoreless minutes against Boston as a member of the Nuggets in his first game against them since being traded. This game will serve has his first true opportunity to go at his old team.

No. 2 – Friday, Dec. 6 vs. Denver Nuggets

Everyone is focused on when the Lakers, the Clippers, the Rockets and the Warriors are coming to town. Here’s a reminder: don’t forget about the Nuggets, especially on a Friday night.

Denver is the team that challenged a healthy Warriors squad last season for the No. 1 seed in the West. This team is for real, with a young and talented core led by Jamal Murray (who dropped 48 on the C’s last season) and Nikola Jokic, who finished fourth in last season’s MVP voting.

The Nuggets return their entire core and add Jerami Grant and young prospects Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol. They will compete yet again to win the most games in the West.

No. 1 – Thursday, Nov. 7 at Charlotte Hornets

Buckle up, because this one is going to be feisty.

For the first time in his career, Celtics point guard Kemba Walker will face off against the Charlotte Hornets. Likewise for Hornets point guard Terry Rozier against the Boston Celtics.

Oh, and these two players, who were signed-and-traded for one another this offseason, will match up at point guard on national television on TNT.

That’s juicy enough, but then add in the sub-plots and it gets even better. Charlotte chose not to offer Walker enough money to keep him. Boston, meanwhile, chose to invest in Walker rather than investing in Rozier, who it drafted and developed.

Celtics-Hornets has never been must-watch TV. It will be on this night.


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