Before the Celtics started this season, I took a look at the Celtics’ schedule in November, and turned to fellow beat writer Jay King:
“This team could be .500 out of the gate,” I thought aloud.
Fast forward to nine games later, and the C’s at 4-5, probably the best mark anyone could have realistically expected at the start of the season, with this roster, and a brand new coach and system in place. The four-game winning streak made for a nice feel-good story after the woeful 0-4 start and now the team is back at square one after a bad loss to the Bobcats at home.
The problem with my .500 prediction, is that now was the point in the schedule where I thought the .500 talk would end for good. November is as brutal schedule month for the C’s, playing games on 18 of the 30 days, including six back-to-backs. There were some favorable matchups early in the month. Those favorable matchups end tonight against Portland, as here is what Boston has ahead of them on the docket.
Nov 15: vs. Portland
Nov 16: @ Minnesota
Nov 19: @ Houston
Nov 20: @ San Antonio
Nov 22: vs. Indiana
Nov 23: @ Atlanta
Those teams are a combined 38-14 right out of the gate, with the Pacers being the leader of the pack as the only undefeated team remaining in the NBA at 8-0.
This is a stretch for Boston where the wheels could easily fall off, since they won’t be favored in any of these six games. A 0-6 or 1-5 mark would be the expectation, if you go by the numbers. That would drop this crew back down to 4-11 or 5-10 and immediately kill any good vibes accumulated by the team’s recent four-game winning streak and turn everyone’s focus back strictly to tanking.
So what can be considered a success over this stretch for Boston? 3-3 would be a minor miracle. 2-4 has to be a realistic goal at the very least, for Boston to stay relevant. Even that would be considered somewhat impressive, as you wonder where exactly will those wins have to come from?
I say it has to be at the TD Garden, starting tonight. The Blazers are a much more talented team than the C’s, but they just flew across the country. They have a lackluster defense (23rd in defensive rating) and Boston has shown they can keep pace with bad defensive teams on nights when they keep the ball moving.
How about the other wins? The fun thing about this team right now, is that while you can not predict when and where the wins will come from, you can’t peg any games as definite losses either. They’ve won on the road in tough environments, they have won on back-to-backs away from the Garden, they’ve still been in EVERY game in the fourth quarter, nine games and running.
There’s plenty of work to be done on both sides of the floor. The season’s toughest stretch has arrived though and you know what? I think Brad Stevens will have these guys ready to hold their own during it.
We find out, starting tonight.