On Thursday, the NBA announced their 2012-13 schedule, which commences on October 30 th . In a professional sports world where a restful offseason no longer exists, teams spend most of their time assessing the shortcomings of their prior season and build for the next.
As it is with the Boston Celtics, the team came off a disappointing end to their championship hopes and has spent most of their waking hours re-tooling their roster for another title run. With several key acquisitions and retentions in place, the 2012-12 schedule poses to be an exciting one for the Celtics.
Below is a preview of the season; profiling and predicting the outcomes of the Celtics season on a month-by-month basis.
October record 1-0
The Celtics will look to avenge their Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat on opening night in Miami. As with prior champions (see Dallas Mavericks), teams celebrating their prior season title tend to come out flat on opening night. While the Heat will have motivation to make a statement, the Celtics will look to exact some revenge on their conference rival. The game also represents the first matchup between the Celtics and their former championship teammate, Ray Allen. Look for Allen to play inspired basketball but Boston will be up to the task.
November record 10-5 (11-5 overall)
Boston starts the month with their first back-to-back contests as they play a home-and-away series against the fledgling Washington Wizards. With the second of the series being a home game, the Celtics will have little difficulty defeating a weaker opponent. The month presents the first two games against new division power Brooklyn Nets, who come off a very busy offseason that saw an all-out effort to build their own version of a Big Three. Even thouth the Nets have come up short in their effort to obtain Dwight Howard, the combination of new acquisition Joe Johnson will make Dreon Williams a better player and the team is more formidable than they were last season. The likely scenario will be the Celtics defeating the Nets at home and losing to them on the road, which is on the second of a back-to-back scenario. The other key mach-ups include consecutive games against Western Conference powers San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. With contests against Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls, the Celtics will be tested early in the season but will come out with a solid 9-5 record.
December record 9-5 (20-10 overall)
December includes eight road contests as well as a streak of six straight games against teams with a winning record last season. The season's second full month of competition includes a trio of games against the Texas three-some of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio and the beginning stages of the team's traditional post-Christmas West Coast trip. The games that will likely draw the most attention will be their road contest against the Spurs and their Christmas Day contest against the aforementioned Nets. The Spurs game will be on the second of back-to-back contests which may result in a loss while they are more likely to beat the Nets after three days rest. In addition to these difficult tests, the Celtics will renew their rivalry against the 76ers in a back-to-back home-and-away match-up. After their seven game defeat of Philadelphia, the Celtics will have their hands full pulling off a sweep of this series. With several games against weaker competition, the Celtics should be able to pull off another solid month and head into the New Year with a 20-10 record.
January record 11-4 (31-14 overall)
The Celtics play 10 of their 14 January games in the comfortable confines of TD Garden. Of their January opponents, eight games are against teams from last season's playoffs. The month represents two prominent player visits, as the Celtics host Ray Allen and the Heat while Doc River's son Austin pays his first and only trip to Boston this year. With revenge on the Celtics' minds, look for an inspired performance by the local five and the team's most successful month this year.
February record 8-4 (39-18 overall)
Seven of Boston's 12 contests are on the road with the last five including a trip out West. The prominent contests in the month include a renewal of the Lakers rivalry with both contests occurring this month. Despite five Western Conference games to conclude the month, the Lakers are the only contending team on the trip but the West is not always kind on the Celtics. The Lakers road game will be on the second of back-to-back games; meaning a potential loss exists. The month will be a struggle with three back-to-back scenarios occurring but the team has the depth and experience to weather the storm.
March record 11-5 (50-22 overall)
Coming off a tough month, the road tested Celtics will play six March road games against 2012 playoff teams. Ray Allen makes his second return to Boston after departing for South Beach this summer. Boston will pay former teammate Kendrick Perkins a visit for the only time this season as the Celtics battle Oklahoma City. With seven contests against weaker foes golden State, Atlanta, Charlotte, Toronto, and Cleveland, look for the month of March to be a productive one foe the Celtics.
April record 5-5 (55-27 overall)
With a playoff likely secured and a likely home court in the first round in place, the Celtics will look to rest their weary veterans and prepare for another long playoff run. Two prominent games that will be on the team's radar include consecutive contests against Brooklyn and Miami. Despite only three games existing between 2012 playoff teams, resting the regulars will most likely result in sacrificing wins for playoff health.
Predicting the future is not science and there are so many factors that can come into being that could dramatically impact the Celtic's long term prospects. With a veteran team injuries have to be a concern, but Boston has talented depth unlike many seasons prior. Every season there are teams that pull off unlikely upsets and the Celtics could also rise up and defeat a NBA power when it is not expected. With history as a gauge, playing on the road in back-to-back contests have not been kind to the Celtics and my predictions reflect many of these games resulting in a 4-11 record in these contests.
Barring injuries, the Celtics are poised to finish with a top three seed in the Eastern Conference and be in a solid position to make another run at a title. If injuries impact Pierce, Garnett or Rondo, the Celtics still possess talent enough to win 45 games and advance past the first round but not much more than that.
However the actual schedule plays out, the moves made by Danny Ainge and the Celtics' brain trust deliver a ray of hope that the initial three-year window of opportunity has been kept open for year six; with Banner 18 still within reach.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years; witnessing five of Boston's 17 championships. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @scott_duhaime
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