One man's top 18 games in Celtics' pursuit of Banner 18
18 must-sees on the way to Banner 18
The Celtics schedule is out and, after crunching the numbers, I’ve whittled it down to the 18 most objectively important games on their quest for Banner 18 (according to me).
1. Opening night, Oct. 16 vs. 76ers
The NBA is tipping off the season with its next big rivalry. The Celtics and 76ers blood feud might not be as violent as it was in the '80s, but the two budding Eastern Conference powers already have last spring's playoff meeting under their belt...and an entire summer of social media flame throwing between the fan bases. The over/under for Ben Simmons three-point attempts is 0.
2. Oct. 19 at Raptors
The Celtics second game of the season is also their second consecutive game against a team projected to win 50-plus games. If healthy, Kawhi Leonard is one of the best five basketball players on planet Earth. Let’s see how that plays in Canada.
3. Oct. 25 at Thunder
This game represents the first road test vs. a Western Conference team - the Celtics were 10-5 on the road vs the West last season – and is another matchup with a team projected to win 50-plus games. It’s also their first chance to hold Russell Westbrook, the 2017 NBA MVP (yuck!), to 39 percent shooting like they did last season.
You can also expect big things from Marcus Smart on this night, as the C’s guard has scored 17.8 ppg in OKC in his career (including 12-for-24 on 3-pointers).
4. Nov. 1 vs. Bucks
I’m sure there are no hard feeling left between these two teams after their seven-game, first-round series in last season's playoffs. I’m also sure no Celtics fans will be wearing Scary Terry t-shirts or Drew Bledsoe jerseys to this game.
5. Nov. 9 at Jazz
It seems just yesterday that the Utah media was writing hit pieces about Gordon Hayward after the forward signed a free-agent deal with Boston, but that was actually a full year ago. Unfortunately, Hayward didn’t get a chance to play in Utah last season for obvious reasons. Barring disaster, this will be his chance. It will also be another early road test for the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back.
6. Nov. 30 vs. Cavaliers
I know what you’re thinking, who cares about the Cavs without LeBron? I’ll tell you who cares...me. I get that they are no longer a threat to the Celtics in the East, but come on, players in those uniforms eliminated the C’s from the playoffs in three of the past four seasons. Buddha says holding on to anger is like trying to throw a hot coal at someone; you’re the one getting burned. Sounds like Buddha never hit the target when throwing hot coals. The Celtics will smash the Cavs, and I can’t wait.
7. Dec. 10 vs. Pelicans
Could this be the last time Anthony Davis plays in Boston for the away team???? It’s hard to say, but huge if true. Keep an eye on Jayson Tatum in this game. The Kevin Durant/Kobe Bryant/Kawhi Leonard clone had a 70.0 eFG percentage vs the Pels last season including 7-for-11 shooting vs New Orleans' first-team All-NBA defensive team guard Jrue Holiday.
8. Dec. 12 at Wizards
Just when you thought the Celtics/Wizards rivalry was fading they go and sign Dwight Howard. Adding one of the most toxic players to one of the most volatile locker rooms in the league is a recipe for...something. Dec. 12 will be our first chance to see what that something is.
9. Dec. 19 vs. Suns
Celtics fans may have forgotten how Josh Jackson waited for the Celtics to be in the air on their way to a workout with him before telling them he wouldn’t work out for them last summer, but I haven’t. Jackson is the type of villain the Celtics need. A mediocre player on a mediocre (at best) team who insulted the city of Boston. This game is also top pick DeAndre Ayton’s first visit to Boston.
10. Dec. 25 vs. 76ers
See item No. 1 but add a yule log and Santa Claus.
11. Dec. 27 at Rockets
The Celtics visit Houston for their first game vs the Carmelo Anthony-led Rockets. The over/under for James Harden offensive fouls in the final minute of the game is two.
12. Dec. 31 at Spurs
The Celtics say goodbye to 2018 with a matchup vs. the Spurs. Brad Stevens beat Gregg Popovich for the first time last season, but that was at home. The Celtics haven’t won in San Antonio since March 31, 2011.
13. Jan. 4 vs. Mavericks
Northeastern University legend Jose Juan Barea makes his 12th career appearance in Boston. The former Husky and 2011 NBA champion will probably be serving as a mentor for exciting young players Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. Keep an eye on a player named Dirk Nowitzki. He’s supposed to be pretty good, and this might be his last visit to the hub.
14. Jan. 26 vs. Warriors
This is the first meeting between the greatest team ever assembled and the Warriors. Fun fact: the Celtics are the only team in the NBA with a .500 record vs the Warriors since the start of the 2015-16 season.
15. Feb. 3 vs. Thunder
Last Super Bowl Sunday, the Celtics won a thriller vs the Trail Blazers on an Al Horford buzzer-beater. The rest of the day was not as memorable for local sports fans. Will this year be better?
16. Feb. 7 vs. Lakers
LeBron James + Lakers = throw up emoji. It’s weird that the first meeting between these two rivals doesn’t happen until this late in the season, but it is what it is. Feb, 7 is also the NBA trade deadline and considering what happened to LeBron’s team last trade deadline, and all the one-year deals the Lakers gave out this summer, this could be a pretty awkward game.
17. March 6 at Kings
This is the Celtics first shot at increasing the lottery odds of the Kings pick they own (assuming it’s not the top pick). It’s also the night after playing at the Warriors, three nights after playing the Rockets, and two nights before playing LeBron in Los Angeles. Should be fine.
18. March 18 vs. Nuggets
Assuming he hasn’t been traded, this will be Isaiah Thomas’ first visit to Boston as a Nugget. Last year was an absolute disaster for the Little Guy and we’re hoping he’s back to his top-five MVP form on this night. I don’t believe the Celtics have any other video tributes going on this night so...