Every team says that a single game is just a game, but we know that’s not true. Whether due to the media hype machine making us care more about certain games or the rivalries between certain teams, some games just matter more than others do. What games will matter the most to the Boston Celtics this year?
Starting with Toronto
In the Eastern Conference, the Celtics will be looking to win as many games against the Toronto Raptors as possible. Now that Boston is the consensus top team in the conference, they’ll be looking to beat down on the teams that can challenge them for that title. The first Toronto game is the second game of the season for Boston; winning that game would set an edge that they could carry into further matchups. In all, Boston plays Toronto four times this year. The Celtics need to at least split these games.
What about the Process?!
Similarly, Boston has to try to win as many of its matchups with the Philadelphia 76ers as possible. Philadelphia is young and hungry to win, so Boston needs to shut down any hope they have of being the team to come out of the East for a chance at a championship. Winning at least the two games at home would show that this team is capable of taking Philly on. If the Celtics can go into Philly and win a game or two? The mental edge the players would get from that would make the playoffs a dark affair for the 76ers.
The Wild, Wild West
As for the West? We all know the marquee matchup between the Celtics and the West was always and is finally again Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James’ move to the Western Conference jump-started a rivalry that had fizzled to nothingness. The Lakers had descended into lottery-bound mediocrity as the Celtics have risen. No longer, though. Kyrie Irving going against LeBron in one of basketball’s greatest rivalries is must-see television. And for the Celtics, it’s must-win television, too.
Since the Celtics and Lakers will only face off twice, I think both games are must-win for Boston. Winning both would silence the Kyrie/LeBron talk, at least until a Finals meeting. Winning both would also show this team isn’t afraid of history or of making it.
There are 72 other games for the Celtics next year. They’ll probably win a majority of those, too. Some of them won’t matter at all, but some will be important. The Golden State Warriors promise to be a challenge. The Oklahoma City Thunder might shock some people. Those games, as good as they are, don’t matter as much to the shape the Celtics season will take as the games against Toronto, Philadelphia, and LA.