Following various negotiations between the National Basketball Players Association and NBA owners, Commissioner Adam Silver officially announced the tentative schedule of the NBA’s “coronavirus season” last month. Although the Dec. 22 start seems early for a handful of NBA veterans, teams have been eager to return to the court after the conclusion of the successful NBA bubble in September. The first half of the 2020–21 schedule was released last week, and the Boston Celtics have an absolute gauntlet for the first three games — no surprise there. Let’s get into breaking down their first week and the possible outcomes:
Dec. 23: Milwaukee Bucks
The Celtics open up the unusual 2020–21 season in a primetime game against the Milwaukee Bucks, a perennial title contender for the next five to seven years. Luckily for the Celtics, the Bucks found ways to improve this free agency period, even though they have a top-five player in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Celtics simply do not have an answer for him; even though the Celtics picked up Tristan Thompson in free agency, he doesn’t have the defensive skills to shut down the “Greek freak.” I’d predict a close game through three quarters until Antetokounmpo goes full “Space Jam” in the fourth quarter.
Final: Milwaukee Bucks 117, Boston Celtics 104
Dec. 25: Brooklyn Nets
After waiting almost a year for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to start, the Brooklyn Nets finally have their coveted tandem this season. However, and I don’t think many basketball pundits are predicting this, I believe that Irving and Durant will not work out in Brooklyn. Both players have a ball-dominant play style, meaning they need to control the play on each possession in order to have success; that will not work in this modern NBA. I’m sure the Nets will still be a solid team, but I would not be surprised if the scrappy Celtics show up and squeak out a win on Christmas.
Final: Boston Celtics 110, Brooklyn Nets 106
Dec. 27: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are a difficult team to analyze; Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo are a solid one-two punch and Domantas Sabonis is one of the more underrated forwards in the NBA. However, inconsistent play and crushing failures have shadowed the Pacers’ promising future. For the Celtics, they are sans Kemba Walker until at least January after a stem cell injection into his knee. I will not argue that Marcus Smart isn’t a good player, because he is. But is he capable of handling the great depth of guards that the Pacers have? Probably not. Jeff Teague could provide a spark off the bench in this game but every matchup between these two teams ends up as a weird result. It’ll be a defensive-heavy matchup, but the Pacers will come away with a victory.
Final: Indiana Pacers 97, Boston Celtics 90
Although a 1–2 start seems disappointing for this Celtics team, keep in mind that they are without one of their stars for the first few weeks. This is a tough schedule to open up with in such a strange season and coming away with at least one win will give the Celtics some confidence that they desperately need. This season is probably not going to end with a NBA title for the Celtics, but crazier events have happened.