Month-by-Month Predictions for Boston Celtics 2012-13 Season
An 82-game NBA season means a lot more basketball for us to watch. However, it also makes for a much longer and enduring season for the players than last season.
Month by month, even a team as deep as the Boston Celtics will experience some setbacks and difficulties. The later the months get into the season, the more important they will be for the Celtics. If they are going to get the veterans extra rest, it may have to come earlier in the year.
The Eastern Conference is going to be a dogfight. On paper, Miami and Boston may be a stride ahead of the rest, but over 82 games, that may not matter so much.
Chemistry will be an issue early on, as the Celtics have brought in many new parts. Minutes will have to be sacrificed here and there for the betterment of the team and the health of the major components.
Boston may never look like the best team in the league during the season, but as we learned last season, it'll always be in the conversation with this core.
The Celtics season will start right were it left off: in Miami. Call it Game 8, Game 1 or whatever you so choose, this is sure to be a great show.
With the October 30 game, you are tuning in to see the theatrics just as much as the game. In reality this is a matchup of two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Beyond that, Boston must watch the Heat get their rings and Ray Allen line up on opposite end of the floor. This is also the NBA's first nationally televised game of 2012-13, and there are certain pregame rituals we can keep our eyes on.
The rest of the early going is a tad light for the Celtics. This is going to benefit them, as the team's talent alone can feast on the likes of Milwaukee and Detroit. Boston is going to have some trouble figuring out chemistry in the early going.
Playing just six games against 2011-12 playoff teams, one being Orlando, during this period will help the Celtics refrain from falling behind.
These early games are also interesting beasts in that we can find out what Doc Rivers plans to do with the team's immense depth. There are a lot of pieces that can contribute, and Rivers has to find time for most, if not all of them.
Matchups against very different teams like Philadelphia and Utah will tell us a little bit about how versatile this roster can be and how versatile Rivers will let it be. The 76ers will attempt to run on Boston like the semifinals of the 2012 playoffs. Boston is better equipped to deal with that this season.
Utah will be figuring out issues of its own, but can go very big against Boston. Size does not appear to be a strength for the Celtics, but this will be a true test for the two-(three?)-headed power forward monster.
October/November is going to be a learning experience for both fans and the team. Boston will be hashing out some things internally and will slip to a 9-7 start. Without Avery Bradley, there are some difficulties Boston will run into defensively and chemistry-wise. The Celtics main goal is to get healthy by early- to mid-December.
October/November W-L Prediction: 9-7
The season continues with a less-than-threatening opening to the holiday season.
The most important part of the month may be the home-and-home with Philadelphia on Dec. 7 and 8. Sweeping that back-to-back gives the Celtics a leg up in the all-important divisional race. In 2011-12, Philadelphia was a surprise team, and it has the makeup to threaten Boston's Atlantic crown again.
After that things get a little interesting with two extended road trips. First Boston takes a Midwest swing, visiting Houston, San Antonio and Chicago. Then following a couple medium home games (Cleveland and Milwaukee), the Celtics finish 2012 with a four-game swing on the left coast.
The Bulls game is the most important of the first set. A big win here establishes dominance and sends a message that, without their star player, Chicago is no threat in the Eastern Conference.
That lengthy trip starts with a short one, a visit to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Christmas Day. Boston plays the noon matchup in ESPN's Christmas slate. The Celtics have to hope Santa is nice enough to gift them a win, as the rest of the trip is sure to be a grind.
Four games in six nights continues out at the Staples Center against the Clippers, a team that Boston had a memorable battle with in 2011-12. That is followed by a back-to-back against two much improved teams: the Warriors and Kings.
This has to be the month that Boston begins turning the corner. They will have had all November to figure out what is going on with the lineup, and the addition of Avery Bradley at some point in December is going to help the team with the tiresome road trips.
I'll predict a very good 10-4 month that includes a couple decent winning streaks. It is important for the Celtics to build confidence, particularly the second unit. Those reserves are going to get a lot of run at the end of the month, with games against supremely athletic teams out west.
December W-L Prediction: 10-4 (19-11)
Losses: Bucks, Spurs, Nets, Warriors
The New Year's Day hangover won't be an option for the Celtics, as their January kicks off with some tough games. They'll battle four straight times against 2011-12 playoff teams before Jan. 8.
2013 is a difficult start for Boston. The final game of that run is against a divisional foe, New York. The Celtics and Knicks will have to wait until the new year to square off in a regular-season contest, which they will do at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 7. The Knicks know a path to a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference goes through the Celtics and will enjoy feasting on a weary Boston squad.
Boston can then pick up some cheap wins with a five-game homestand in the middle of the month. That is only part of a stretch of seven more-than-winnable games. Those games come against some lighter foes, including Charlotte and Phoenix. The Celtics also get a look at New Orleans and Anthony Davis, as well as Doc Rivers coaching against his son Austin. That game is on ESPN, so we are sure to be treated to a Rivers family documentary at some point.
January will close as tough as it started though, increasing the necessity of picking up the midmonth wins. For the second time in January, Boston squares off against New York and Atlanta. Expect a split of those four games, with each team winning one. Though Boston is a superior team, their regular-season malaise is worrisome sometimes.
The two home games leading into February are not lackluster at all. ABC has their Sunday Showcase all set up as Ray Allen returns to the TD Garden for the first time as a member of the Miami Heat on Jan. 27. Mixed emotions and a mixed reaction will be the feeling in the stands and perhaps on the court as well.
The close-out game for January is against Sacramento at home.
A 9-6 record for January puts Boston at a sensible 28-17 on the season. Eleven games over .500 is a good place to start for this team, and picking up wins against conference contenders will be paramount during this midseason stretch. Boston's units should be in full swing, and whatever experimenting Rivers was attempting in the early going will quiet down.
January W-L Prediction: 9-6 (28-17)
Losses: Grizzlies, Knicks, Bulls, Hawks, Heat, Kings.
February, the shortest month of the year, may seem the longest for this Celtics team.
An impending five-game West Coast road trip at the end of February includes stops in Denver, Los Angeles, Portland and Utah. Those are four teams with sights on half of the playoff spots in the Western Conference. A visit in the middle to Phoenix is hardly a reprieve.
With that trip weighing on the minds of some of these veterans, early February could be tough to get through. Considering it is littered with mini-trips to Toronto and Charlotte, interspersed with the first Laker experience at home
The All-Star break provides an excellent cushion, occurring just prior to the road trip. Only Rajon Rondo earns a spot in the game as a reserve, but Jared Sullinger will be invited to partake in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Still, there are tough games against the two powerful Los Angeles teams, and the feisty Denver Nuggets who are looking to break into the league's elite. Then a game against the Bulls, who will have eyes on getting Derrick Rose back shortly and hoping to wrack up some wins before going on a late-season run.
I would also urge you not to sleep on the Celtics-Raptors series this season. Toronto is much improved in spots that could be trouble for Boston.
The focal point of February is obviously the twin matchups with the new-look Lakers. A potential Finals matchup will be in the mind of most Celtics, especially the less experienced ones. This is a problem because once those players develop eyes for the purple and gold, they lose sight of what a tough month this is outside of those two games. A careful 7-5 sounds accurate for February, with the Celtics coming out of the road trip at 3-2.
February W-L Projection: 7-5 (35-22)
Wins: Magic, Clippers, Nuggets, Bobcats, Lakers, Suns, Jazz.
Losses: Raptors, Lakers, Bulls, Nuggets, Trail Blazers.
March needs to be the target month for Boston to be entirely healthy. This is the month that will swing a season from being a success to being a disappointment.
Should Boston sustain any injuries at all for the month of March, it would be devastating. This is a make-or-break-type set of games as 10 of Boston's 16 opponents are legitimate teams from the 2011-12 postseason. That means no mirage Orlando number or anything like that.
March has everything you want out of a post-All-Star break test. There are two games against New York and one each against Philadelphia and Toronto that will shape the final path to the Atlantic Division title.
Two return games from the Atlanta Hawks also occur in March. In January, the Celtics had to trek to Georgia twice, but now the tables have turned.
The Celtics also will play two nationally televised games against each 2011-12 NBA Finals participant. ABC has them on the second Sunday of the month visiting Oklahoma City, while ESPN gets another shot at the Miami Heat rivalry at TD Garden. That comes the day after Saint Patrick's Day, which could mean some interesting alternate jerseys.
The bottom line is January will start with five straight games against playoff contenders, including important seeding matchups against Indiana, Philadelphia and Atlanta. If Boston isn't at full strength to combat these solid teams, it could falter. I believe Rivers knows that this is the important time to be healthy and will manage the early season accordingly.
A 10-6 record is a safe middle ground, but know that this month could go either way. However, as recent history has explained, the Celtics have an even keel this late in the season and can grind out wins to maintain their spot in the East.
March W-L Prediction: 10-6 (45-28)
Wins: 76ers, Pacers, Raptors, Bobcats, Hornets, Bobcats, Heat, Knicks, Cavaliers, Hawks.
Losses: Warriors, Hawks, Thunder, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Knicks.
The Celtics get a nice padding at the outset of the final regular-season month. Early home games against Detroit, Washington and Cleveland will provide nice cushion to rest some starters and still earn important wins.
If the top of the Eastern Conference is a tight as I think it is going to be, those early wins are going to be just as important to the final standings as the late-April matchups with contenders.
Should Boston still be jostling for seeding in the Eastern Conference, three late games at Miami and home against Indiana and Brooklyn should seal the deal.
Boston's experience could be somewhat inverted, as Doc Rivers will try to get his veterans extra rest early in April rather than late. Though we saw him sacrifice seeding for rest in 2011-12, that won't be the case this season. Home court meant everything in the Philadelphia series and a whole lot in the Eastern Conference finals.
If there is a chance to jump a spot in the standings, Rivers may take it this season. Especially given the quality of the opponents this month.
April W-L Prediction: 7-2 (52-30)
Wins: Timberwolves, Pistons, Cavaliers, Wizards, Nets, Magic, Raptors.
Losses: Heat, Pacers.
May and Beyond
With a final record of 52-30, Boston should find itself somewhere in the 2-4 seed area come May. Depending on how you look at things, the No. 4 seed isn't ideal because a matchup with Miami before the Eastern Conference finals is not what you want.
Boston needs to fight its way to the No. 2 or 3 seed. After all the preseason bluster and talk, it is easy to tell what Boston's goal is. Its sights are set on Miami—and Miami alone. Knowing this, it wouldn't surprise me if Doc managed the final month of the season in a hunt for the No. 2 or 3 seed to set up that Eastern Conference finals.
If Boston earns the third spot, which I expect them to, it will battle the No. 6 Brooklyn Nets in the opening round and defeat them in six games.
That series is followed by the winner of the No. 4/5 matchup featuring New York and Chicago. I have to give that series to Chicago, setting up a Bulls-Celtics series that the Celtics win in a contentious seven games. That sets up the show everyone wants to see again.
Boston and Miami's 2012-13 season starts with one another and, for one team, it will end the same way.