Ten highlights of Celtics' 2017-18 schedule
BOSTON -- Golden State may everyone’s overwhelming favorite to repeat as NBA champions this season, but let’s be clear.
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If you’re looking at the teams on the “next-best-thing" list behind the Warriors, the Celtics are in the mix.
And no better indicator of the franchise’s status can be found in their schedule, which includes high-profile, prime-time matchups up and down the schedule.
The Celtics opener in Cleveland and first-ever Christmas Day home game (vs. Washington) were revealed last week and the full schedule was announced Monday.
The C's begin the season on the road -- for the first time since 2013 -- when they take on the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who may, or may not, have the services of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. He, of course, has asked for a trade.
The Cavaliers have had talks with several teams, including the Celtics. But until a deal is reached for the not-so-happy guard, the Celtics will be no different than everyone else in gearing up for a Cavs team that -- for now, at least -- will include Irving.
Here are 10 highlights on the Celtics’ eye-popping schedule this season:
10. SUPER BOWL SUNDAY
VS. PORTLAND AT TD GARDEN, NOON
While it’s far from a lock that the New England Patriots will be in the Super Bowl, this year’s squad has the potential to be among the greatest single-season squads in this franchise’s history, which speaks to just how good they are. That means Boston’s matchup against the Blazers will be one where there'll be a lot of channel surfing between the Celts' game and the Super Bowl pregame show as fans try and ride a wave of success for both teams.
9. FOUR AGAINST THE NEW LOOK NEW YORK KNICKS
TUESDAY, OCT. 24 AT TD GARDEN, 7:30 P.M.
THURSDAY, DEC. 21 AT NEW YORK, 8 P.M.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 31 AT TD GARDEN, 8 P.M.
SATURDAY, FEB. 24 AT NEW YORK, 7:30 P.M.
The Knicks are still what you would call “a hot mess,” but at least there’s some semblance of order on the horizon. Hiring veteran NBA executive Scott Perry as general manager was a nice step in the right direction. Boston will to continue keeping a good amount of distance between itself and the Knicks, who even with an improved Kristaps Porzingis, have an uncertain future in large part because of the uncertainty surrounding Carmelo Anthony, who has been on the trading block for months.
8. THE CELTIC-LAKER RIVALRY
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 8 AT TD GARDEN, 8 P.M.
TUESDAY, JAN. 23 AT LOS ANGELES, 10:30 P.M. EST
The Lakers took Lonzo Ball at No. 2 while Boston tabbed Jayson Tatum at No. 3 in the June draft. This matchup will always be a highly-anticipated one because of the teams involved. Ball has received much of the hype as a likely rookie of the year candidate, Tatum impressed many with a strong summer league showing and displayed the kind of skills that make it pretty clear that he’ll be in a Celtics uniform for a while.
7. THE MUCH-IMPROVED TIMBERWOLVES
FRIDAY, JAN. 5 AT TD GARDEN, 7:30 P.M.
THURSDAY, MARCH 8 AT MINNESOTA, 8 P.M. EST
Few teams did more to change their potential fortunes in the offseason than the Minnesota Timberwolves. They added All-Star Jimmy Butler in addition to trading for Jeff Teague, a nice 1-2 punch joining a young but extremely talented core that includes Karl Anthony-Towns (a future All-Star) and Andrew Wiggins.
6. AVERY BRADLEY AND THE PISTONS
MONDAY, NOV. 27 AT TD GARDEN, 7:30 P.M.
SUNDAY, DEC. 10 AT DETROIT, 7 P.M.
FRIDAY, FEB. 23 AT DETROIT, 7 P.M.
Avery Bradley was among the most respected players on the Celtics roster for years, so you can bank on him getting a warm reception when he returns to the TD Garden after being traded to Detroit last month. A pair of ex-Pistons are now donning Celtics uniforms, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris. They didn’t have anything close to the same impact as Bradley, but they too should be well-received when they return to Detroit for the first time since becoming Celtics.
5. HOPPING ACROSS THE POND
VS. PHILADELPHIA IN LONDON ON THURSDAY, JAN. 11, 3 P.M. EST
After years of fielding a roster that looked more like a college All-Star squad than an NBA team, the Sixers have upgraded both in talent and experience. In comes J.J. Redick and former Celtic Amir Johnson to join forces with a young core that includes Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and the No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz.
4. HERE COME THE CHAMPS
THURSDAY, NOV. 16 AT TD GARDEN, 8 P.M.
SATURDAY, JAN. 27 AT OAKLAND, 8:30 P.M. EST
No matter where your franchise may be, it’s always a big deal when you get a chance to play the defending champions. Despite Golden State’s dominance of the NBA in recent years, there are few teams that have played them better than the Celtics, who have gone into the Teflon-tough Oracle Arena and came away with wins in two of the past three seasons (although last year’s victory came with Kevin Durant sidelined).
3. HAYWARD GOES 'HOME'
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28 AT 9:30 P.M. EDT
When the Celtics’ Summer League team played against their Utah equivalent in July, there were ‘Hayward’ jerseys with the letters ‘Co’ taped over the letters ‘H’ and ‘A’ to spell Coward. Yup, it’s gonna be that kind of game for Gordon Hayward when he returns to Utah for the first time since he signed a four-year, $127.8 million deal with the Celtics after seven years with the Jazz. His departure at the time was still very fresh in the minds and hearts of Jazz fans.
2. MERRY CHRISTMAS
VS. WASHINGTON ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 25 AT 5:30 P.M.
The seven-game, second-round series last spring between these two was among the best matchups of the playoffs. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall elevated their play to a level that was impressive for all to see and reminded us why they are among the best guards in the NBA. Just as the pressure to win rose, so did the tempers, resulting in hurt feelings, technical fouls and a one-game suspension for Kelly Oubre Jr. delivering a two-hand shove to former Celtic Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat). That alone would have made this a Christmas-worthy game. But it has a new wrinkle: the Morris twins, (Washington’s Markieff Morris and new Celtic Marcus Morris) both known for tough, physical play.
1. WHERE IT ALL BEGINS
AT CLEVELAND, TUESDAY, OCT. 17 AT 8 P.M.
It'll be the first glimpse at the new-look Celtics, who will look to close the gap even more with the LeBron James-led Cavaliers, who may be without Kyrie Irving if the four-time All-Star’s trade demand is met. Regardless of what the Cavs have going on, all eyes – at least around here – will be on Gordon Hayward and his debut with the C's, who made him their No. 1 free agent target this summer. Coming off his first All-Star selection with the Utah Jazz, it’ll be interesting to see how his game meshes with two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas and four-time All-Star Al Horford.