After months of brainstorming and planning, the NBA and NBPA agreed to resume the 2019-2020 season. They agreed on a mutual site at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex located at Walt Disney World in Florida. Beginning on July 30, 22 NBA teams will compete in eight “seeded” games to determine their position in the NBA playoffs. Although the Celtics have already clinched their playoff spot, these games are still very important to them. Right now the C’s sit three games behind the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference standings. If Boston can play well during these eight games, they will be in a good position to take the two seed in the east considering Toronto’s tough schedule. The Celtics will take on some very tough teams such as the Bucks, Raptors, and Heat. We have broken down all eight matchups to get you prepared for the intense eight games before the Celtics make their NBA title run.
Celtics vs. Bucks: July 31
Just before the NBA season shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Celtics were scheduled to take on the Bucks. Almost five months later, the two teams will meet up to kick off their resumed seasons. This is by far the Celtics toughest team they will have to face throughout the eight games. The Bucks, 53-12 hold the best record in all of basketball. However, Boston has matched up very well against Milwaukee this year in their two head to head matchups against each other. The Celtics took the first game back in October 116-105 led by Kemba Walker’s 32 points. In the second meeting between the two, Milwaukee handed Boston a tough loss winning 128-123. In both matchups, the C’s were without Jaylen Brown. The Bucks lead the league with an 11.3 point differential which is the fifth-highest in NBA history. This will be a test for Boston in their first game since early March. The biggest factor in this game is containing reigning MVP Giannis Antetokoumnpo. When the Celtics won, they held Giannis to 22 points. However, when they came out on the losing end, Antetokoumnpo scored 32 points. Although the Bucks have other offensive threats such as all-star forward Khris Middleton and point guard Eric Bledsoe, the offense runs through Antetokounmpo. If the Celtics can contain Antetokounmpo by forcing him to take shots outside of the paint and sending him to the free-throw line, this will give them their best shot at winning the game. Although unsure how both teams will perform being their first games in months, it will be a great game between the Celtics and the best team in basketball.
Celtics vs. Trail Blazers: August 2
Despite making a run to the Western Conference Finals last year and having one of the best backcourts in the league with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Trail Blazers have not performed up to par this season. For the Celtics to hopefully grab the two seed, games like these are must-wins. Boston faced the Trail Blazers once back at the end of February, winning 118-106. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics scoring 36 points. Jaylen Brown also added 24 points. Both teams were without their star point guards, Kemba Walker and Damian Lillard who were both dealing with injuries. Now that both of them are healthy, it will be a very exciting game to watch. It will be key to try and stop Damian Lillard. Lillard averages 28.9 points per game which is fifth in the NBA. DPOY candidate Marcus Smart will see a lot of time matched up against Lillard in the matchup in the hope to contain him. If the Celtics play a good offensive game, they should have no trouble beating the Blazers who are 26th in opponents points-per-game allowing 115.6. Boston is the favorite to win this matchup, and it will be very fun to watch.
Celtics vs. Heat: August 4
Sitting at 43-21 the Miami Heat are just 2.5 games back of the Celtics and pose the biggest threat out of any team to leapfrog the Celtics for the 3rd seed. Miami has gone 27-5 at home but only 14-19 on the road, so the games taking place on a neutral site will play to the Celtics advantage. The Celtics beat Miami twice already, despite missing Hayward in the first game and Tatum in the second. In the two regular-season matchups, Boston made the most of going at Duncan Robinson on a regular basis. Brad Stevens has liked to hunt mismatches, so expect Stevens and the Celtics to continue to go right at Robinson. When these teams meet, it will be a rare occasion when Boston actually has a slight size advantage. The Heat like to go small with Adebayo playing the five for most of the game. This will help the regularly undersized Celtics matchup easier. Erik Spoelstra is one of the most experienced and successful coaches in the league. When the two teams play each other it will contain two of the three best coaches in the eastern conference. In a seven-game series, Boston has the advantage but in one game anything can happen. The Celtics will be the favorite but do not be shocked if Miami pulls out a win.
Celtics vs. Nets: August 5
Brooklyn is currently 30-34, sitting in the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant sidelined due to injury, Brooklyn’s will be seriously outmatched. The Celtics won the first matchup between these two teams, but Brooklyn won the last two including a 129-120 overtime win. The Celtics took game one 121-110 led by Kemba’s 39 points. The Nets prevailed in game two, as Spencer Dinwiddie scored 32 to go along with 11 assists. Brooklyn stole game three on the road in overtime, due to the fact that Caris LeVert torched the Celtics scoring a career-high 51 points and all 11 Nets OT points. The Celtics were also without Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker only played 23 minutes. The Nets were without Kyrie Irving in all three games (convenient for him) so they will basically have the exact same roster. A few games before the season was suspended, the Nets fired head coach Kenny Atkinson. They replaced him with Jacque Vaughn who has gone 2-0 in his only games as the head coach. Vaughn is a decent coach but he will be no match for Brad Stevens. The Celtics trump the Nets in almost every team statistic, have a better coach, more experience and much more skill. The fact that the three best players in this matchup are all Celtics (Brown, Tatum and Walker) says enough about how outmatched Brooklyn is. Barring a horrendous effort by the Celtics or a nearly perfect performance from the Nets, Boston should win this one handily.
Celtics vs. Raptors: August 7
Prior to the season being suspended, the Toronto Raptors were the hottest team in the league, having won 21 of their last 25 games. Toronto is currently 46-18, holding a three game lead of the Celtics for the 2nd seed. The Celtics are 2nd across the association in points allowed per game, giving up just under 107 a contest. The only team better than them: the Toronto Raptors. Assuming Serge Ibaka starts over Marc Gasol, this would mean everyone in the Raptors starting lineup is in the top forty in Defensive Win Shares. No other team can come close to saying this. Pascal Siakam has emerged as one of the best two-way players in the league. With Siakam leading the way, surrounded by former all-star’s and exceptional role players, Toronto is surely a team no one wants to face. The Celtics have come out on top in two of their three match-ups. Given that Siakam was absent from two of the three games, and the other game was at the beginning of the year, neither team will/should read into these results too much. Boston should certainly fear Toronto’s defense, especially how they handled Tatum. In the three games, Tatum went a combined 16/47 (34%). If Boston hopes to beat Toronto in this game, Tatum will need to perform better.
Celtics vs. Magic: August 9
Although the Magic are the closest team to home-court advantage in the resume of the NBA season playing at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, it would still take a lot for them to beat Boston. The Celtics have done a phenomenal job taking care of the Magic this year. In their two matchups in the regular season, Boston has won both by double digits. Orlando has struggled most of the year sliding into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 30-35. The C’s match up very well against the Magic and it was evident in the regular season. In the first contest this year, Kemba Walker torched Orlando, scoring 37 points leading Boston to a 109-98 victory. In the second game, Jayson Tatum took over and scored 33 en route to a 116-100 victory. Boston is the favorite to win this game. Again, these are must-win games if the Celtics want to take the two seed in the Eastern Conference from Toronto. It will be interesting to see if Boston can maintain their play against Orlando from this year.
Celtics vs. Grizzlies: August 11
The Grizzlies, who sit at 32-33 are another favorable game for the Celtics. Although Memphis started to heat up midway through the year, Boston is still in a great spot to grab a victory. In the one time they played, the Celtics dominated them by 24 with a final score of 119-95. The key for the Celtics is maintaining Ja Morant, the second pick of last year’s NBA draft. Back when they played Memphis in January, they did a great job containing him holding him to only two points. Locking down the Grizzlies’ biggest threat in their offense will set up Boston in a great position to win. However, they still have other reliable weapons such as Jaren Jackson Jr who averages almost 17 points per game. They also have third-year shooting guard Dillon Brooks who is averaging just below 16 points. Memphis is in a very tight race with both Portland and New Orleans for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. From a Boston standpoint, a loss here would be huge due to the Celtics owning the Grizzlies 1st round draft pick next year.
Celtics vs. Wizards: August 13
The Washington Wizards have the lowest odds of any Eastern Conference team to make it into the playoffs. Given that this will be each team’s last game, Washington will likely be eliminated and Boston should be locked into their playoff seed. This will make this game pointless for both teams. However, it will let us still take a look at the match-up in case it ends up mattering. The Wizards are currently 24-40 sitting 9th in the Eastern Conference and have the 8th worst record throughout the league. Washington is actually 6th in points per game this season putting up 115.6 per contest. This is in large part due to the stellar play of Bradley Beal. Beal is averaging 30.5 points per game. Washington also has seven other players averaging double-figures, including sharpshooter Davis Bertans. Unfortunately for Washington, they will be without the Bertans in Orlando as he recently announced he will not be making the trip. These two teams met twice this season, with each team winning on their home court. Boston won the first game in a 133-140 shootout, despite a 44 point effort by Beal. The 2nd game went to Washington in an extremely ugly performance by the Celtics. Boston shot an abysmal 35% from the field and 22% from behind the arc, both season lows. Given they were without Walker, but still do not expect Boston to play that poorly again. Despite Beal being slightly better than Brown, Boston has the advantage in every other position. The only way I could see the Celtics losing this game is if they decide to rest their starters, or have another atrocious performance.
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