A few more observations about Boston’s 2011 schedule:
• The first 10 games are brutal. The C’s start with Miami, and after a three-game respite (@Cleveland, New York, @ Detroit), the next six games go like this: Milwaukee, Chicago, @Oklahoma City, @Dallas, @Miami, @Memphis. Those first 10 games include three back-to-backs, including the Thunder and Mavs games.
The C’s started 27-2 in ’09 and 23-5 last season. Don’t be shocked if they are 5-5 after their first 10 games in 2011.
• Even so, the schedule is mostly back-loaded. If the C’s want to fatten up their record, they should do so between games #10 and the halfway point of the season. After Boston’s first 10 games, the C’s will play 20 of 32 at home, and many of those games are against the mediocrity of the league.
After that? It gets much tougher.
In a totally imprecise way of analyzing the schedule, I like to find road games against teams that won at least two-thirds of their home games the previous season—or teams that didn’t but are likely to in the coming season (i.e. the Heat and Bulls). Beating an elite home team in their place is a tough thing to do.
Here are the the teams that pass this test for 2011, along with their 2010 home records:
Bobcats (31-10, and this is not a typo)
Thunder (27-14, which works out to a winning percentage of 65.8%, so we’re rounding up)
Bulls (24-17, giving them the benefit of the doubt in 2011)
Miami (24-17, and, yeah, they get the benefit of the doubt for 2011)
The Celtics play 17 road games against these teams. Of those 17 games, 10 come after the halfway point of the season and 7 come in the 27 games after the All-Star break. In other words: Back-loaded schedule.
• The C’s play 9 games combined against the Magic, Heat and Lakers, the three teams considered (along with Boston, if you like) the favorites for the 2011 title. Five of those 9 games come after the All-Star break.
• One break the C’s catch: Every season, to make the 82-game thing work, each team will play a couple of teams in its conference three times instead of four. The C’s get the reduced number of games against the Hawks, Magic, Bucks and Cavs. Three out of four ain’t bad.
• The C’s have four different blocks of four consecutive road games, up from three such blocks last season. Both of the team’s main West coast trips (four games each) come after the All-Star break.