Celtics' Home Heavy Schedule the Reason for the Team's Early Success
The Celtics are riding a 15-game win streak, and there's no doubt right now that they're the best team in the league. No one would argue that Boston has been anything less than impressive in jumping out to a ridiculous record of 23-2 to start the season, an all-time start. But is the team really that amazing, or are they simply a product of their early-season schedule?
I'd argue that it's a bit of both, but the lack of quality opponents has more to do with the team's gaudy record than their stellar play does. Especially on the road. I swear, every time I see that the Celtics are playing someone that might give them a game, it turns out that the contest is being played in Boston. The Celtics are a strong enough team without getting to play all of their tough games at home, right?
Of course, it won't be like this all season.
The schedule will eventually even out, and in fact, I can already hear Celtics fans screaming at their computer screens that the Lakers effectively have two more home games than everyone else in the league (by virtue of their two "road" tilts against the Clippers at Staples Center), so I should just SHUT MY YAPPER.
But the fact remains that only two of the Celtics' 23 wins have come over teams of consequence on the road: at Houston in the fourth game of the season, and at Detroit in Allen Iverson's home debut as a Piston. So let's look ahead a bit and see when this team might actually have to leave Boston to play anybody that matters, shall we?
Actually, the Celtics have an interesting game coming up tomorrow night, when they go on the road to face the Atlanta Hawks. If you recall, Boston couldn't beat a sub-.500 Hawks team in Atlanta during the playoffs a year ago, so I would't be surprised to see a confident Hawks team give Boston all they can handle.
But the Hawks aren't exactly, say, the Lakers (or even the Cavaliers). As we've all known for a while now, Boston's true first road test will come on Christmas Day when they have to go to Los Angeles. Even if the Celtics drop that one though (and the way the Lakers have been playing defense lately, it doesn't seem likely), they can chalk it up to L.A. being ultra-motivated to get some sort of (ultimately meaningless) revenge for their loss in the NBA Finals.
Things slowly start to pick up steam from there, as Boston plays in Portland on December 30th, in Cleveland January 9th, in Orlando January 22nd, and in Detroit January 30th. The middle of February though will likely tell us all we need to know about these Celtics.
From February 11th through the 23rd (broken up a bit by All-Star weekend), Boston plays five straight road games against high quality Western Conference opponents, in the following order: New Orleans, Dallas, Utah, Phoenix,. Denver. Now we're (finally) talking.
So yes, the Celtics are admittedly the best team at the moment, and definitely have played with more focus and intensity than their conference-leading counterparts in Los Angeles. But to me, there's no question that their home heavy early season schedule has as much to do with that 23-2 record as anything else. So until Boston strings together some quality performances on the road, I'm going to take that gaudy win total with at least a few grains of salt.