Matchup with Heat Brings Schedule Quirks to Light

MIAMI – The Boston Celtics will play their final road game of the season against the Heat when they take the court tonight in Miami, just 36 days after Opening Night. The completion of their road series with the Heat is just one quirk to the new, drawn-out schedule the NBA created for this season.

The regular season opened up nearly two weeks early this year, on Oct. 17 as compared to Oct. 26 last year. The goal was to provide players more rest throughout the schedule, with fewer back-to-backs and fewer instances of having four games in five nights.

The new schedule has accomplished many of its goals, but it has also created some interesting differences that teams did not experience in the past. For instance, following tonight’s game, the Celtics will have already closed out their road series with three different Eastern Conference teams (Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland).

Last season, Boston didn’t close out a road series against an Eastern Conference foe until Dec. 18.

“It’s very strange,” Al Horford said of that fact Wednesday morning in Miami, “but that’s the way that they’re doing it. That’s the way that the schedule is. We’ve just got to get used to it.”

This quirk introduces an interesting debate from a competitive standpoint.

Surely, Miami and Atlanta cannot be excited to have hosted the Celtics for the only two times this season during Boston’s 16-game winning streak. In seasons past, those teams may have hosted Boston once during this streak, and once again during the winter or spring. That old scenario allowed teams to meet at very different times of the season, when the impact of team injuries and each team’s level of play or confidence may be very different.

Brad Stevens is also doing his best to adjust the team’s daily plans in relation to the new schedule. He acknowledges that players have more time to recover, but during the first four-plus weeks of the season, he has also noticed multiple hurdles that have been created as a result of the longer season.

First and foremost, contrary to what common sense might suggest with more off days, Stevens has barely been able to get his team on the court for full practice sessions.

“You have to manage practices appropriately,” he explained, “because you can’t practice hard every day if you’re playing every other day. So I just think that we have to be really smart about our walkthroughs and our practice times.”

Stevens has brought this topic up at least a handful of times during the first month-plus of the season.

Another quirk that the coach has noticed is that road trips are longer this season for trips that are longer than a one-game, out-and-back.

“in the past, if you played three games on the road you’re not on the road as long like we are this time,” said Stevens, who has been away from his family for nearly a week now. “You feel like there’s a lot of time from a travel standpoint.”

Boston has been on the road for the last six days for its three-game road trip that will come to an end tonight. The goal is to head home tonight with a three-game sweep and a 17-game winning streak in tow.

Certainly, the C’s would love to get a reprieve from winter with another trip to Miami in February, but if they’re forced to close out their road series with the Heat tonight, they’ll be happy if they can do it in style.