After the Celtics open their season with a must-watch matchup with the Miami Heat and old friend Ray Allen, it could take some time for the season to get truly interesting.
The Celtics visit Miami at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, where they will grit their teeth and watch the Heat's championship banner be raised to the rafters of American Airlines Arena. After that, the month of November includes one game against the rival Philadelphia 76ers, home and away dates with the new-look Brooklyn Nets and one home game each against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Those inter-conference contests might draw some extra TV viewers, but neither game will mean much in the season's big picture.
The season's first 17 games seem relatively easy for the Celtics. They feature three games against the Milwaukee Bucks, two games against the Washington Wizards, plus road games against the rebuilding Detroit Pistons, the drama-weary Orlando Magic and the Chicago Bulls, who lost Derrick Rose to a torn left ACL and dismantled their strong bench in the offseason. In addition, nine of the first 16 games are at home for the Celtics.
Boring is not necessarily bad for the Celtics, though. Coach Doc Rivers will be breaking in a revamped bench led by Jeff Green and Jason Terry, as well as juggling his backcourt due to the expected absence of Avery Bradley to begin the season.
Few games against top division or conference foes means the Celtics could have some time to come together before the schedule gets more challenging.
The first showdown with the longtime rival Lakers is not until Feb. 7 at the TD Garden. The rematch in Los Angeles 13 days later ends a nine-game stretch in which the Celtics will face seven teams that qualified for the playoffs last season. The Celtics come out of the All-Star break with five straight road contests, and nine of their first 11 games are on the road to start the second half of the season.
Down the stretch, the Celtics will be tested. March features 10 games against playoff teams from last season, the most the Celtics will face in any month. Early in the month, the Celtics will take on the Sixers, Pacers, Hawks and Thunder in four consecutive games -- three of which could hold significant playoff seeding implications.
Later in the month they play the Heat, the Knicks twice and the Hawks again. Pretty much all of March could feature games that might carry full-game jumps in the Eastern Conference standings.
Regardless of the competition, the Celtics will welcome this schedule because of one major upgrade from last season's condensed slate. The Celtics have 20 sets of back-to-backs spread out over 82 games and 170 days this season. Last season, they had 19 back-to-backs (and one back-to-back-to-back) spread over a 66-game, 124-day span.
With a strengthened bench and a return to a normal schedule, the Celtics should feel prepared for whatever this season brings.