The Boston Celtics on Friday afternoon released the first half of their 2020-21 schedule. Now, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the key games that you won’t want to miss.
Below, we’ve listed in chronological order five of the most highly-anticipated matchups taking place during the "first half" of the upcoming campaign.
Dec. 23 vs. Milwaukee
What better way to tip off the 2020-21 season than with a matchup against the back-to-back league MVP and the reigning regular-season champions? On Dec. 23, the Celtics will open the doors to TD Garden for the first time since early March, welcoming the 2019-20 MVP and Defensive Player of the year, Giannis Antetokounmpo, sharpshooting All-Star Khris Middleton, and new Milwaukee Bucks floor general Jrue Holiday into their home. Last season, these two squads proved to be an incredibly even match with Milwaukee owning a 352-351 scoring edge over the course of three games. However, a key part of Boston’s scoring punch will be absent for the upcoming chapter, as Kemba Walker, who averaged a team-high 29.3 points per game against the Bucks last season, has already been ruled out through the end of December. Therefore, it’ll be up to Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the rest of the Celtics to make up for that scoring void.
Dec. 25 vs. Brooklyn
The NBA’s schedule-makers must be in a giving spirit this holiday season, because they gifted the Celtics with what should be an epic Christmas Day matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. Kyrie Irving, who hasn’t played a game inside TD Garden since May 6, 2019, is set to make his first return to Boston since joining the Nets two summers ago. It’ll also be the first time Boston sees Kevin Durant in a Nets uniform after the former MVP missed all of last season with an Achilles injury. Those two superstars, along with Caris LeVert, who scored 51 points during Brooklyn’s last game inside TD Garden, have the potential to turn Brooklyn into a powerhouse this season under the helm of first-year head coach Steve Nash. And Boston would love nothing more than to present them with a gift-wrapped Christmas defeat.
Jan. 6 at Miami
The Celtics will open the 2021 calendar year with a four-game road trip, which will wrap up Jan. 6 in Miami, setting the stage for the biggest grudge match of Boston’s season. It will mark the first meeting between these two teams since late September, when the Heat knocked Boston out of the NBA bubble with a 4-2 Eastern Conference Finals victory. This will be a great test for Boston’s new-look frontcourt, as Tristan Thompson will look to make an impact against Bam Adebayo, whose interior physicality and athleticism broke Boston’s back last postseason. It will also be the first time that Avery Bradley will get to suit up against his former Celtics team as a new member of the Heat.
Jan. 20-22 at Philadelphia
Although it technically counts as two games on the schedule, we decided to throw Boston’s mid-January, two-game set in Philadelphia into the mix, given how unique of a situation it is. Same-city sets were non-existent prior to this season, with the exception of an occasional West Coast trip that would include back-to-back games at STAPLES Center. However, such sets will be a regular occurrence this season due to the league’s attempt to limit travel as much as possible. The Celtics will play five same-city sets during the first half of the season, and their two-game “series” in the City of Brotherly Love packs the most intriguing punch. The Atlantic Division rivals will meet up for two nationally televised games over the course of three days at Wells Fargo Center, creating what should be a mid-season, playoff vibe. It also has the makings of an epic coaching chess match, as Brad Stevens will face off against his predecessor and new 76ers head coach Doc Rivers.
Jan. 30 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
In late January, the Celtics will return home in the midst of a seven-game, 19-day road trip for one game to be played against their archrivals. The 17-time NBA Champion Celtics will host the 17-time and reigning NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 30 for the first time since LA finally caught up with Boston in the ring chase. Last season’s version of this game was one of the most one-sided victories in the history of the rivalry, as Jayson Tatum’s 27-point effort led the C’s to a 139-107 blowout over Anthony Davis, LeBron James and the rest of the Lake Show. This season’s meeting will have a little extra meaning to both teams now that the race to Banner 18 has tightened.
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