With the NBA schedule for the 2012-2013 season recently being released, Celtics’ fans can begin looking forward to certain dates for entertaining match-ups. The first will begin Oct. 30 against the Miami Heat, as Boston will seek vengeance for last season’s Game 7 loss in the playoffs.
While this will certainly be an early test for the new look Celtics, there will be many challenges throughout the season. When analyzing the schedule, one month seems to stick out though, February. The month of love will not be so heart warming to the Celtics, as they will face numerous playoff teams and several back to back stints.
February 1st, vs. Orlando Magic
February’s slate begins with a home game against the revamped Magic. With a Dwight Howard trade looking less likely to happen this offseason, there is a good chance he will be present for this game. The Celtics should very well be favorites, but any time you have to take on the most dominant center in today’s game, there should be some level of concern.
February 3d, vs. Los Angeles Clippers
“Lob City” will be in town early that month to take on the Celtics. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are one of the better tandems in the league, and should create several problems for Doc Rivers’ group. The Clippers also went into Boston last season and won, so they should have no fear of the Garden. Boston will need to play a complete game in order to come out with a victory.
February 6th, @ Toronto Raptors
The Celtics will travel up North for this divisional showdown. The Raptors will likely miss the playoffs again this year, but could be a pesky team. With the additions of Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas the Raptors are building a competitive squad. Also, Boston might be looking ahead toward their game the following day.
February 7th, vs. Los Angeles Lakers
This will be one of two meetings between the rivals this month. The Celtics will be playing the Lakers on less than 24 hours of rest. A physically stout Los Angeles frontcourt could have their way with the Celtics. Rebounding has been Boston’s biggest weakness the past several seasons, and the Lakers’ big men could punish the Celtics in the paint. Will Boston be physically and mentally prepared coming off a road game in Toronto the previous night?
February 10th, vs. Denver Nuggets
George Karl’s squad always poses difficulty for any team because of their up tempo pace. Boston’s defense will have their hands full with trying to get back in transition. This is where Danny Ainge is hoping his new and young acquisitions will benefit the Celtics. If Boston’s defense has a lazy night they could give up 110 points.
February 11th, @ Charlotte Bobcats
This should be an easy win for the Celtics. The Bobcats had one of the worst seasons in NBA history last year and haven’t made any drastic improvement. Still the Celtics will need to travel down to Charlotte, and play them a night after taking on the run and gun Nuggets. If Boston comes in with tired legs, the Bobcats could make this game more uncomfortable than it should be.
February 13th, vs. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls will still be without Derrick Rose at this point but they always play tough. Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has created a defense first mentality in Chicago that has allowed the Bulls to succeed even when Rose is out. The Windy City is one of the better rebounding teams in the NBA, and the Celtics will need to hold their own on the glass. If not they could drop this home game.
February 19th, @ Denver Nuggets
The Celtics come off the All-Star break and immediately begin a West coast road trip. The Denver Nuggets have one of the better home-court advantages with their high elevation arena. Boston needs to be ready to run with the Nuggets for 48 minutes. Luckily Boston should be well rested from the break.
February 20th, @ Los Angeles Lakers
Paul Pierce makes his homecoming this night as the Celtics meet the Lakers for a second time in two weeks. As mentioned before, the Lakers are going to be one of the better teams in the NBA this year. The addition of Steve Nash may make them Western Conference favorites. Boston will be playing on a back-to-back. With the Lakers getting their usual home cooking, Boston will have its work cut out to win this one.
February 22nd, @ Phoenix Suns
The Suns are weakened since losing long time hero Steve Nash in free agency. Don’t let that fool you though as Phoenix could still give the Celtics a good run. Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat still provide enough fire power to take down Boston. The Celtics will need to be careful not to overlook the Suns after playing in Los Angeles two days earlier.
February 24th, @ Portland Trailblazers
This will be the Celtics fourth game on a five game road trip, and tired legs may become a factor. Rest will be hard to come by with all the traveling Boston must do. The Celtics are better than Portland as a team, but with them having played three games in the previous four days, they may come into this one a bit disinterested. As we’ve seen the past several years, Boston will take games off and when they do, they typically lose.
February 25th, @ Utah Jazz
Another back-to-back game on the road for the Celtics. The Jazz were also a playoff team last season and may be ready to take another step this upcoming year. The young and talented Jazz frontcourt will surely bother the Celtics. Utah has a rowdy home crowd that will be up to see the Boston Celtics in town. With this being the final game of the road trip, the Celtics could have their focus on returning back home.
Boston will play 12 games in 25 days during this stretch in February, including four games on back-to-back nights. Injuries and old legs have derailed Boston since the 2009 season, and this trip will surely put the Celtics’ durability to the test. Not only will the Celtics be playing a lot of games, but they’ll be playing competitive teams. Eight of the games will be against playoff teams from last season. Of course the biggest name that jumps out from this February schedule is the Los Angeles Lakers. Any time the Celtics and Lakers take the court against one another, expect a hard fought contest.
If the Celtics can survive the month of February relatively injury free, and in good position seeding wise, it will bode well for their chances come playoff time. Until then, let’s just look forward to that opening game in October.
For a complete look at the Boston Celtics’ schedule click here.