Checking the hype meter on Celtics' upcoming marquee matchups

Checking the hype meter on Celtics' upcoming marquee matchups originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics launch into an intriguing five-game stretch with Friday night’s visit from the Dallas Mavericks. Riding a nine-game winning streak and owning an eight-game lead atop the Eastern Conference, the Celtics don’t necessarily need to worry about stacking wins in this stretch.

But here’s our question: Is there one game in this upcoming batch where a win would feel just a little bit better than the others?

There will be a lot of eyeballs on the Celtics over these next five games. Let’s detail the road ahead and what additional motivation Boston might find in each of these games to start the month of March:

March 1: Mavericks at Celtics

We only get the Jayson Tatum-Luka Doncic battle twice per year and the games have rarely disappointed. Given all the chatter around the MVP race, Friday’s game is another chance for Tatum to showcase all the ways he impacts winning beyond scoring.

In his last five matchups against Doncic, Tatum has averaged 31.6 points, 12 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. That includes a 39-point, 11-rebound night during Boston’s triumph in Dallas in January.

This was supposed to be Grant Williams’ return to TD Garden, but alas, that will have to wait until Charlotte visits on April 12 in one of the final games of the regular season.

Forsberg’s hype meter: 2 out of 5 stars. Mavs are playing better and need wins while lingering in play-in territory in the crowded Western Conference. It’s a solid test for Boston if Doncic is at full health. Oh, and Kyrie Irving is in town, if that does anything for you.

March 3: Warriors at Celtics

Sure, the Warriors have endured their struggles this year. Some wanted them to blow it up at the trade deadline. But not only have they won 10 of their last 12, it’s also the freaking Warriors.

Even with Boston’s new-look roster, Golden State is still the same team that stiff-armed the Celtics on the Finals stage in 2022. Boston is 1-2 against the Warriors in the aftermath, including a pair of overtime thrillers.

Forsberg’s hype meter: 4.5 out of 5 stars. The Celtics get a Sunday stage to show just how they’ve changed since 2022. Kristaps Porzingis didn’t play in the first meeting this year, which adds another wrinkle to this showdown.

The Celtics don't have any must-wins in this stretch, but this one might feel better than any other potential triumph in this batch.

March 5: Celtics at Cavaliers

The Celtics already have asserted their dominance in the East, having built an eight-game lead over their nearest competitors. (Cleveland and Milwaukee tied for second place entering Friday’s action.)

The Cavaliers have been scorching hot in 2024 but barely made any progress toward catching the Celtics despite winning 17 of 18 over a month’s span into early February. The road has been bumpier since then, and after last year’s first-round playoff exit, the Cavaliers still need to prove they are not just a good regular-season team.

Forsberg’s hype meter: 3 out of 5 stars. The Celtics handled the Cavaliers on both ends of a home-and-home in Boston in mid-December. The Cavs are much healthier and will have heavy motivation against a Celtics team that might otherwise be focused on all the Western Conference foes in this stretch.

If the Celtics are motivated to assert their East domination, this game gets some extra sizzle. The Jaylen Brown-Donovan Mitchell matchup is always fun, too.

March 7: Celtics at Nuggets

Do we even need a preamble here? Should we skip right to the hype meter? The reigning champs. The MVP frontrunner.

Denver is quietly creeping toward the top spot in the West and the Celtics are still smarting from dropping the first showdown in Boston in January.

Forsberg’s hype meter: 5 out of 5 stars. This feels like the biggest game remaining on Boston’s schedule. (As the Bucks show signs of getting on track, you can make a case for the Milwaukee visit later this month.)

The Celtics plucked a lot of positives from the Denver loss. They’ve been much better at hunting matchups in the aftermath. The Celtics should be extremely motivated for this one, and if Tatum is going to shimmy up the MVP balloting, this game could help state his case for greater consideration.

March 9: Celtics at Suns

The Celtics have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league, even if the first three games of this road trip don’t exactly suggest as much. They go from the Denver altitude to the Valley of the Sun.

This feels like another big night for Tatum with both Kevin Durant and childhood buddy Bradley Beal (sidelined at the moment) on the opposite side.

Forsberg’s hype meter: 2.5 out of 5 stars. If Phoenix is anywhere near full health, this one doesn’t lack for star power. We’re interested to see how the Celtics elect to defend the talent-filled Suns, especially the Devin Booker matchup.