Game-by-Game Factors To Watch Out For in Orlando
BOSTON – The NBA is back.
The Boston Celtics are back.
The pursuit of an 18th world championship? It’s back.
The NBA announced Friday night the “seeding games” that will be played by the 22 teams that will return to play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World this summer. Each team will play eight games, with the first games tipping off July 30.
The Celtics will return to game action the following night, at 6:30 p.m. on July 31 when they take on the reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
Below, we outline three factors to watch out for in each of Boston’s eight seeding games.
July 31 at Milwaukee Bucks
The State of Tatum and Giannis: Jayson Tatum was turning into an elite NBA player before the hiatus arrived in mid-March. He had averaged 28.2 points per game over his last 20 games. Meanwhile, Giannis was paving the way for his second consecutive MVP award. Will these two pick up where they left off?
Milwaukee’s Chemistry: Milwaukee’s chemistry was the core of its success. It was one of those teams that operated as one unit at all times. Now, it enters an unprecedented time, where it must attempt to maintain that success after a four-month layoff. Is that possible? We’re about to find out.
Kemba’s Health: Kemba Walker, in his first season with the Celtics, was an All-Star. However, he hadn’t looked like himself for a good chunk of the year while nursing a sore left knee. He has now had an offseason’s worth of time to rehab that knee, which could very well return his game to All-Star level and take the Celtics to new heights. This will be our first look at a – hopefully – healthy Walker in a long time.
August 2 vs Portland Trail Blazers
Blazers Edge: One edge the Trail Blazers will have every time they take the court in Orlando is its absolute need to win. Portland is on the outside looking in on the playoff race, which gives each of if its games an added level of significance.
No Trevor Ariza: It has been reported that Trevor Ariza, whom Portland acquired in late-January, will not participate in the NBA’s restart. That’s a big hit for the Blazers. He was starting for them and logged 38 minutes against Boston on Feb. 25.
Guard Prep for Playoffs: This game will be a great defensive prep opportunity for the Celtics. They’ll be facing a dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and that’s the type of one-two punch the C’s will need to learn how to lock up during the postseason if they wish to make a deep run.
August 4 at Miami Heat
A Potential Playoff Opponent: Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia, the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds in the East, respectively, are separated by only two games. Whichever team lands in the sixth spot could very well face the Celtics during the first round of the Playoffs.
Celtics Looking for a Sweep: Boston is 2-0 against Miami this season, having won 112-93 on Dec. 4 in Boston, and 109-101 on Jan. 28 in Miami. This is the C’s opportunity for a season sweep.
Scrappiness and Effort: The Heat is a team that has talent, but it’s also a team that scraps and plays hard every night. No one knows how that mentality will translate to a fan-less environment. This game will help to answer some of those questions.
August 5 vs Brooklyn Nets
Nets Playing for Playoffs: Brooklyn enters Orlando as the seventh seed in the East. Each of its games is important, as it could impact seeding or its eventual playoff berth in general.
A Caris LeVert Reminder: It was a while ago, and we hate to remind you, but Caris LeVert single-handedly led an insane Nets comeback against the Celtics on March 3. He scored 51 points and dominated the second half to lead the Nets to an overtime win. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.
First Back-to-Back: This will be Boston’s first and only game that will be played on the second night of a back-to-back during its seeding games. It will surely feel different than the rest after so much time off.
August 7 at Toronto Raptors
Potential Roadblocks: If either of these teams are to advance to the NBA Finals, they’ll almost certainly need to go through each other at some point. This would be a great preview of what would be an intense series.
Is Seeding Up for Grabs?: Heading into Orlando, the Raptors lead the Celtics by three games for the second seed in the East. Depending on what happens through the first week of games, this matchup could become very important with regard to seeding.
Marc Gasol’s Impact: A photo surfaced during the hiatus of Marc Gasol, who appeared to have worked himself into outstanding shape. Gasol has been a non-factor this season against Boston, having gone 0-for-8 from the field while scoring one point during the first matchup, and having missed the next two games due to injury. Will he make an impact during this matchup?
August 9 vs Orlando Magic
Where Do the C’s Stand?: Again, seeding comes into play. If the Celtics have their seed set in stone, they could very well rest some players during this game. If not, they will go at the Magic with everything they’ve got to try to move up.
Seeking Season Sweep: For the second time in as many games against the Florida teams, Boston will be seeking a season sweep of Orlando. The C’s are 2-0 against the Magic this season.
Fultz Has Been a Non-Factor: If the Magic are going to avoid the season sweep, they’re going to need Markelle Fultz to play at a higher level. In two games against Boston this season, he has totaled just 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
August 11 at Memphis Grizzlies
Grizzlies Fighting for Playoffs: This game will almost certainly hold significance to the young Grizzlies. They enter Orlando as the eighth seed, and they don’t want to miss the postseason.
Ja Struggled Against Boston: Ja Mortant, the likely Rookie of the Year this season, struggled mightily against the Celtics on Jan. 22 in Boston, scoring just two points while attempting only five shots. We doubt he’ll replicate that performance.
Will C’s Begin Resting: With only two games left on the schedule, Memphis might take on Boston’s B or C squad. Brad Stevens might opt to rest his top players in order to accomplish more on the practice court.
August 13 vs Washington Wizards
Rest Game for Boston: It’s almost a guarantee that Boston’s top players will not play in this game. For the C’s, this could very well look a lot like the final game of any regular season when their seeding is set in stone and the emphasis for their starters is on preparing for their first-round playoff opponent.
Where Do the Wizards Stand?: Likewise, for the Wizards, will they have been eliminated from playoff contention at this point? If they are more than four games out of the eighth seed, they will be eliminated from playoff contention.
Any Help for Beal?: If Washington is, in fact, alive in its playoff hopes, it will need some help for Bradley Beal. Beal has been sensational this season, but Washington’s second-leading scorer, Davis Bertans, will not be playing in Orlando. Beal is going to need some other teammates to step up.