12/13/2015 08:59:00 AM
With over a quarter of the season in the books, there are 10 teams in the Eastern Conference with a winning record and all of them are within a few games of each other. The Celtics, at 14-10, are currently in sixth place, but are only two games behind the first place Cavaliers (15-7) and one behind the second place Raptors (15-9).
For as long as this competitive balance lasts, each game will carry extra significance, as it will remain possible for a team to move multiple spots in the standings based on a single win or loss. At the same time, if this back-and-forth continues throughout the conference, the opportunity for a team to take hold by stringing together a bunch of wins will remain.
Do the Celtics have a chance to be that team this month?
CELTICS DECEMBER SCHEDULE (8)
12/15 vs. Cleveland: The Cavaliers, at 5-6, are a different team on the road this season.
12/16 at Detroit: The second of a back-to-back against a confident Pistons team, who also happen to be 9-3 at home.
12/18 vs. Atlanta: The Hawks are 10-11 against teams outside of their division, 6-6 on the road and are playing poorly as of late.
12/21 vs. Minnesota: Although they are an unimpressive 9-13 this season, the Timberwolves are 6-4 on the road and 5-6 against the Eastern Conference.
12/23 at Charlotte: Rematch from 10 days earlier, which the Celtics won. The Hornets are 10-3 at home and will have Al Jefferson back.
12/26 at Detroit: Rematch from 10 days earlier.
12/27 vs. New York: Although this will be the second of a back-to-back, the Celtics have fared well in these games this season. The Knicks are 3-0 playing within the division this year, but they have yet to play Boston. They are also 6-7 on the road this season and have lost four of their last five.
12/30 vs. Los Angeles: Interesting the Lakers have played 17 of their 24 games this season on the road. However, given their 2-15 record, they have yet to figure out how to win them.
ANALYSIS & PREDICTIONS
The Celtics are 7-5 at home, but 7-3 since their early season losses to the Raptors and Spurs. Between the recent success and what we saw during their hard fought loss to the Warriors on Friday, it is clear playing five of eight at home is an advantage.
Three of their give home games are against teams with losing records, including the Timberwolves, Knicks and Lakers. So far this season, the Celtics are 9-1 against teams with losing records. It is hard to predict a loss here.
Given the Cavaliers' injuries and road struggles, as well as the Celtics recent home success and two days of rest in preparation of this match-up, Boston is in a great position to win here.
The Hawks are struggling right now, especially on the road, and the Celtics have played them well over the last year. As they did in their most recent match-up, I envision the Celtics cruising to an easy win at home.
The Celtics are 7-5 on the road, but their greater concern should be their 4-8 record against teams with winning records since their three road opponents this month have one.
The first Pistons game will be the second of a back-to-back in two different cities, which starts with a home game against the Cavaliers. I see Detroit winning here, but the Celtics getting one back in their rematch 10 days later.
As for their return to Charlotte, the Celtics are clearly playing with a high level of confidence right now, which is only going to increase before their rematch with the Hornets. They play four times before then and three are at home. Furthermore, the recent taste of success in the very same building will only serve to help them find a way to sweep the December series with the Hornets.
CELTICS RECORD ENTERING JANUARY: 21-11
Questions for the Readers: Do you agree with my prediction of seven wins through the rest of December? If not, give me the specific game you disagree with my prediction on and tell my why.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Follow Max Sandgrund on Twitter @SotoSpeakz
12/13/2015 08:59:00 AM