Celtics Lead

Anticipate But Don’t Fear a Slow Start for the Celtics

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The Boston Celtics are coming off quite the summer. With a revamped roster and newfound motivation, they’re looking to reclaim what is rightfully theirs: the Larry O’Brien trophy.

But don’t expect greatness right away. If you’re a Celtics fan, you might experience some stress from late October through early November. Don’t let it get you down, but instead anticipate it. Prepare for it as best you can, and once you’re on the other side you’ll be glad you did.

The First Eight

The Celtics’ first eight games are tough. They’ll play Philadelphia, Toronto, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Charlotte, Cleveland and New York (twice). Excluding the Knicks, those teams combined for a 275-217 record last season, good for a .558 winning percentage. It may not seem that daunting, but consider this: the toughest schedule in the entire NFL belonged to the Packers last season, and their opponents’ combined winning percentage was .539 percent.

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Right off the bat, Milwaukee and Philadelphia look formidable. Many predict them to finish first and second in the East this year. If not, they’ll both finish near the top. Whether the records end up showing it or not, both should be outstanding teams this season.

It doesn’t help that the games against the 76ers and Spurs are on the road. Only the Chicago Bulls had a better record on the road (13-28) than at home (9-32) last season. It’s reasonable that the Celtics would drop one or both of those games to two solid playoff teams.

Division Play

Of the Celtics’ first eight games, four are against division opponents. Granted, two are against the Knicks and one is against the Raptors. The Knicks, of course, finished with the league’s worst record last year. While they don’t seem like a threat, they’re a likely candidate to beat the Celtics.

Before last season, the Celtics hadn’t swept the Knicks since 2010-11. The difficulty of playing division opponents, even the bad ones, is their familiarity with Boston. The Knicks had a new head coach in David Fizdale who was spending his first year in the Atlantic Division last season. He wasn’t yet familiar with the other teams, and that could have contributed to the sweep.

The Raptors have clearly gotten worse with the departure of Kawhi Leonard. Still, they play the Celtics four times each year. While Nick Nurse was a rookie head coach last season, he was an assistant in Toronto before his promotion. That means he still coached against the Celtics four times each year. If anybody has any secrets on how to beat the C’s, it’s their division opponents.

The Wins…Hopefully

Don’t let what I’ve said discourage you. The Celtics shouldn’t start 0-8 by any means, and if they do, that’s when it’s time to panic. Just because the Knicks will likely beat them once this season doesn’t mean they should lose both games out of the gate.

The same goes for the Raptors. The game could, and really should, be a win, but a loss doesn’t doom the season. The games at Cleveland and Charlotte are expected wins, and following the first eight games, the schedule starts to truly weaken.

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The Celtics’ next five games are against the Mavericks, Wizards, Warriors, Kings and Suns. Four of those five teams missed the playoffs, and their combined winning percentage is 43.9. With chemistry really starting to click, at least four of those games should be wins despite two tough opponents in the Warriors and Mavericks.

The Celtics likely won’t start the season 22-4 like they did in 2017-18. But don’t be in panic mode if they get off to a 5-3 or 4-4 start. The ship will right itself with time — just maintain faith in Brad Stevens and the rest of his team.

Follow us on Twitter @CelticsLead for the latest Celtics news and insight.

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About Jared Penna

Jared was born and raised in central Massachusetts and is currently studying journalism at Quinnipiac University. Currently writes for TLSM's Celtics Lead branch.

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