If you have the mid-August basketball itch, here's your chance to scratch it.
The Boston Celtics' schedule for the 2023-34 NBA season was announced Thursday afternoon, giving fans an advance look at all 82-regular season games. The biggest change this season is the addition of the NBA's in-season tournament, which will add extra juice to four of Boston's regular-season games in November and could result in the C's competing for the inaugural NBA Cup in early December. You can read all about the tourney and the Celtics' group draw in the link below.
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There are plenty of changes in Boston, as well: Marcus Smart and Grant Williams are out, while Kristaps Porzingis, Oshae Brissett, Dalano Banton and rookie Jordan Walsh (along with a handful of new assistant coaches) are in. What haven't changed are expectations: After falling one game short of the NBA Finals in 2023, the Celtics again are one of the top title favorites for 2024.
So, how can they successfully navigate another 82-game slate? Here are the seven most interesting storylines from the Celtics' 2023-24 schedule, broken down by month.
We've got drama right out of the gate. The Celtics open their season at Madison Square Garden against the Eastern Conference rival New York Knicks, who went 3-1 against Boston last season. Following that is an East Finals rematch against Jimmy Butler's Miami Heat in what should be a blockbuster home opener at TD Garden.
Don't sleep on that Celtics-Wizards game, either: Porzingis gets a revenge matchup in Washington against the team that traded him, while new Wizards forward Danilo Gallinari said he's marking his calendar for every game against the Celtics, for whatever that's worth.
Measuring-stick month and a visit to an old friend
We're monitoring a trio of storylines in November:
- NBA in-season tournament Group Play: Four of the Celtics' matchups in November --vs. Brooklyn, at Toronto, at Orlando and vs. Chicago -- will double as in-season tournament games. If the C's sweep or win three of four, they'll likely advance to the Knockout Round in early December. Now they have a little extra incentive to take care of business against the Magic.
- An early-season gauntlet: Boston plays nine games in a span of 14 days from Nov. 8 to Nov. 22, a stretch that includes two road matchups with the Philadelphia 76ers, a Sunday night showdown with the Memphis Grizzlies and a home game against the Milwaukee Bucks. This will be a great litmus test for the new-look C's.
- Marcus Smart's new turf: That Nov. 19 game against the Grizzlies will be Boston's first game against Smart, who developed lifelong bonds with many Celtics coaches and players over nine seasons in Boston. Expect plenty of hugs and handshakes before and after this one -- and expect Smart to give maximum effort between the whistles.
A pair of high-stakes trips out West?
The Celtics' first West Coast trip is a doozy, with games against four legitimate contenders in the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers (on Christmas Day). But it may be preceded by a trip to Las Vegas.
If the C's wins their in-season tournament group, they'll host a quarterfinal matchup on Dec. 4 or 5. If they win that game, they'll fly to Vegas for the semifinals (Dec. 7) and finals (Dec. 9) of the first-ever NBA Cup. If they reach the finals, that will add an 83rd game to their schedule, although the stats from that game won't count toward the regular season.
Joe Mazzulla's squad also will be on the road to ring in the New Year, visiting Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs on New Year's Eve before heading up to Oklahoma City on Jan. 2.
Frequent flyer miles and two more reunions
The Celtics will bounce all over the place in January with a total of five road trips sprinkled in between five homestands -- three of which are just one home game.
The matchups of note? Two games against former C's head coach Ime Udoka and the Houston Rockets on Jan. 13 and 21; a home showdown against the defending champion Denver Nuggets; and a trip to see Grant Williams and the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 22.
Boston gets a travel respite after a trip to Miami on Jan. 25, however: The Jan. 27 game against the Clippers kicks off a seven-game homestand, the Celtics' longest of the season.
Home sweet home
As mentioned above, the C's won't be traveling much in February, with just four road games (three on the East Coast) compared to six at TD Garden.
The home headliner is Smart's Feb. 4 return to TD Garden, which should be emotional for all parties involved. LeBron James, Trae Young and Joel Embiid also come to town in February -- and don't forget about that second Gallinari revenge game!
On the road again
The Celtics should rest up in February, because they'll do plenty of traveling in March, with 11 of their 16 games on the road. That includes a second West Coast swing, a pair of road back-to-backs and a mini-series in Atlanta -- their fourth instance of playing one team twice in a row. (The other three: vs. Cleveland, vs. Orlando and at Indiana).
Boston will make its home games count, however: Grant Williams will make his Garden return on March 1, while Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo all pay a visit to Boston as well.
The schedule-makers may have done the Celtics a solid here: Five of their final eight games are against teams that missed the playoffs in 2022-23.
Boston also plays six of its last seven games at home, so if the team is jockeying for a top seed in the East down the stretch, its April slate could play a beneficial role. You can circle that April 9 game against Milwaukee, which may have seeding implications if the Celtics and Bucks both sit near the top of the standings.