Boston Celtics 2012 Schedule: Roughest Stretches for 2011-2012 Season
With the 2011-2012 season bearing down on the Boston Celtics as it rapidly approaches its Christmas Day tipoff, the team is scrambling to get ready.
The rosters aren't even set and practices have begun. If you think the preseason schedule is jam packed and hectic, wait until the regular season starts. That's when things promise to get really hectic.
The schedule is packed. It's actually going to be a legitimate story this season. Every season features griping about the schedule. Most seasons those gripes are really just sour grapes. Fans or players claiming an occasional back-to-back string of road games contributed to a short losing streak.
Those two games probably didn't help things but they don't happen frequently enough to validate a laundry list of gripes.
That's most seasons. This season, those gripes might have more merit because the schedule is absolutely brutal. This season the schedule features 66 games in 124 days. That's an average of more than one game every other day. Those back-to-back games that teams apparently don't like? There's going to be more than a few of them.
The Celtics, like many other teams aren't too happy about the schedule. They aren't too happy about the rushed training camps and practices and the decided lack of preseason games. With more than a week until the season starts the Celtics have already voiced some critical opinions about the pace in which this abridged season is progressing.
Of course it doesn't matter whether they like it or not, they still have to play it. The Celtics still need to find a way to navigate this brutal schedule which will pose an especially unique challenge for an aging veteran team such as the Celtics.
Buried within the schedule are a few easy stretches and a whole host of tough ones. Where are the toughest stretches? What is Head Coach Doc Rivers looking at most fearfully as the Celtics prepare to embark on what may very well be the final season of " The Big Three"?
The Long Road: March 11th- March 23rd
On Friday night, March 9th the Celtics will play what should be a somewhat easy home game against the Portland Trailblazers.
After that the long journey begins.
That's because from Sunday afternoon March 11, 2012 through Friday night March 23, 2012 the Celtics have a string of eight consecutive road games.
Eight road games in 13 days and they're not all in one region of the nation.
Within that 13-day stretch there are three sets of back-to-back games. One is easy from a travel standpoint.
On Sunday, March 11th at 3:30 in the afternoon the Celtics will take on their most hated rival, the Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and a team to be named later. Seriously, at this point that game could feature Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, or some combo of them. We know there will be no Phil Jackson or Lamar Odom.
We also know that the next night on Monday, March 12th the Celtics will head back to the Staples Center to play the Los Angeles Clippers who appear to be on the cusp of mounting one of their once every decade legitimate runs at glory. The Clippers will be led by the 2010-2011 Rookie of The Year Blake Griffin and recently acquired superstar point guard Chris Paul.
From there it's off to Golden State to take on the Warriors who are unlikely to have learned how to play defense by then. They get an off night after Golden State and then head to Sacramento for a game that under almost any other circumstances would be easy especially since Sacramento doesn't seem likely to be playing in the postseason anytime soon. Yet the night after the Sacramento game the Celtics must play in Denver—unlike the back-to-back Staples Center games, this pair of games does involve some overnight travel.
The Celtics get an off day on Sunday, March 18th, but will spend most of that day traveling and recovering from the travel since on Monday, March 19th the Celtics play in Atlanta. The Celtics then get a veritable vacation by this season's standards with two nights off before a tilt against the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee on Thursday night, March 22nd.
They'll have to enjoy those nights off because the night after the Milwaukee game they finish off the road trip in Philadelphia against the Sixers.
If that all sounds fairly brutal that's because it will be. It's going to be tough and the only consolation ( for now) is that it appears that the road trip is not packed with the league's toughest teams. There are only four teams on the trip that were in the playoffs last season. At no point do the Celtics play those on back-to-back nights but that's the only silver lining because this is going to be brutal.
The Season Tipoff: December 25th-December 28th
While most of the Nation is unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, the Boston Celtics will be in a shoot-around at Madison Square Garden.
That's because not only do the Celtics tip off the season on Christmas Day but they're the very first game on Christmas Day.
The game tips at noon. That means that shoot around and pregame will clearly start earlier. Merry Christmas, guys.
After that game it's not as if the Celtics get a lot of time to recover from what should be a very difficult game against a Knicks team that is going to be very motivated to beat the Celtics after they bounced the Knicks in a first-round playoff sweep last spring.
The Celtics get the next day off, then they travel to Miami, site of last season's final playoff series for the Celtics to take on defending Eastern Conference Champion Miami on Tuesday night. The Heat beat the Celtics in the playoffs last season and this season's Heat team appears to be tougher having added defensive stalwart Shane Battier to the already talent-rich roster.
Win or lose on Tuesday the Celtics won't have much time to dwell on the results because the next night they play the New Orleans Hornets on the road. The new look Hornets feature shooting guard Eric Gordon but are now without the services of Chris Paul.
Three games in four days anytime is tough. To start the season, it's a bit tougher.
The Lead Up to the All-Star Break: February 16th- February 22nd
The All Star break will have an added importance this season.
Teams are really going to need to rest. While no one will say it publicly (at least none of the potential All-Stars), there will be some players who would probably rather enjoy the weekend of February 23-25 off rather than head to Orlando for the All-Star game festivities.
The Celtics have quite a week leading up to the break as well. The pace of the games isn't any more absurd than anything else the Celtics will see on the schedule this season. It's the opponents that make it tough.
On Thursday, February 16th the night after a home tilt against the Detroit Pistons the Celtics fly out to Chicago to square off against the Chicago Bulls and the reigning NBA League MVP Derrick Rose. That alone is a tough task but it's what happens following that game that makes the lead-up to the All-Star break difficult.
A couple of days off before a Sunday evening game against Detroit in Detroit. Once that game ends the Celtics fly to Dallas to face the defending NBA Champs on national television on Monday night, February 20th.
The Celtics get a breather on Tuesday to prepare for their final game before the All-Star break, a Wednesday night showdown with the talented, young run-and-gun Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder feature some of the league's most athletic young players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
That's a tough stretch against three of the league's best teams in just six nights.
Five in Six: April 13th- April 18th
By the time this regular season is winding down, the Celtics will in all likelihood be a little short of their collective breath.
The last thing they'll need or want is a stretch of five games, four of which are on the road over only six nights.
That's what they're going to get though.
It starts on Friday, April 13th ( I know, you can't make this stuff up!) against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto. Toronto will once again not be one of the better teams in the league so this individual game doesn't appear to be too tough.
It gets tougher though.
That's because the Celtics will play in Toronto, then fly to New Jersey for a showdown in Newark against the Nets team that could feature Dwight Howard on Saturday night. When that game ends it will be back to the plane to fly south to Charlotte to play the Bobcats on Sunday night. That's three road games in only three nights and while it's nice that the opponents aren't too tough, three road games in three nights is unprecedented in modern league history.
The Celtics get a Monday night off and then find themselves in New York to face off against the New York Knicks. The road portion is over after that game but the Celtics must rush home to face the Orlando Magic the very next day in Boston.