Boston Celtics Schedule Favors Them Down the Stretch

Apr 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the Miami Heat during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the Miami Heat during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston’s schedule sets them up for a late-season playoff push.

Though not quite as newsworthy as when the NFL does it, the NBA recently announced its full schedule for the upcoming 2016-17 season. While the Boston Celtics‘ 22 nationally-televised games is eye-opening, it’s the end of the season that should have Celtics’ fans excited.

Normally, Boston’s last trip to the West Coast occurs right after the All-Star break. However, last year, Boston’s stretch run was highlighted by a later than normal West Coast trip, leading to an equal amount of home and away games down the stretch. During the most crucial point of the season, that became problematic for the Celtics.

Last season, the Celtics played significantly better at home than on the road. They posted the fourth-best home record in the Eastern Conference, while playing sub .500 basketball on the road. As Boston was jockeying with three other teams for the third seed in the East, the team played 10 of its final 20 games on the road.

Despite going 8-2 in their 10 home games, the Celtics dropped seven of 10 on the road, posting a respectable 11-9 record in those 20 games. Ultimately, the team finished fifth in the East. As we all saw, seeding ended up being a major factor, as the Celtics drew the worst possible match-up of the three potential opponents. Just one more win down the stretch for Boston would have resulted in a more favorable match-up, and possibly a deeper playoff run.

This year, Boston is set up for a very successful stretch run. The team completes its final trip out West in early March. After the trip concludes with a game against the Denver Nuggets, there will be 16 games remaining in the regular season. Luckily for Boston, 11 of those final 16 will be at the TD Garden. Not only will Boston enjoy some home-cooking at the end of the season, but they’ll also have some favorable opponents.

In those final 16 games, only five will come against playoff teams from last season. Sure, Boston will face teams like the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves, who have seemingly improved from last year. However, they will also face teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat – playoff teams from last year, who had some significant losses this offseason and are expected to regress a little.

Of the 14 teams Boston will face, more than half finished last season with a winning percentage under .500. The Celtics sported a 31-17 record against these teams last season, playoffs not included. Only one team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, finished with a better record than Boston did last year.

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Of the 10 teams Boston will face at home, only one had a winning record on the road last year. Combined, these 10 teams had a road record of 151-259.

The Cavaliers are clearly the toughest opponent of this stretch. Luckily for Boston, that game will be at home after two days of rest. On top of that, Cleveland will be playing their third game in four nights. In total, the Celtics will play three games in which they have two days of rest, and all three of those games will be at home. On the flip side, they will only play two back-to-backs.

Of the five road games, two will come against the lowly Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

This final stretch of games is highlighted by a six-game home stand that, in all likelihood, will feature one playoff team, the Indiana Pacers.

Next: Five Under the Radar Game on Celtics Schedule

A lot can change throughout the course of an 82-game season. There are trades, injuries, teams and players exceed expectations, as others do the opposite. As it stands right now, though, the Celtics appear to have an opportunity to build some real momentum as they make a late-season playoff push.