ATLANTA — The NBA released the second half of the schedule on Wednesday and the Celtics will be challenged early.
They open up with a road game at Brooklyn on March 11, followed by a trip to Houston three days later. March also includes a four-game road trip with games at Memphis and Oklahoma City sandwiching a two-game set at Milwaukee.
The Celtics open April with five consecutive home games, including the April 4 return of Gordon Hayward and his Charlotte Hornets to TD Garden. Philadelphia makes its lone appearance in Boston on April 6. The Celtics also have a three-game West Coast trip (Denver, Portland, and Los Angeles to meet the Lakers) before returning home to face Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on April 17.
The Celtics end the month with six of their final eight games at TD Garden, including another visit from the Hornets along with the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs.
May will be difficult. The Celtics play five of their final seven games on the road, with the home games a two-game set against rival Miami. The Celtics finish the regular season with a road game at the Knicks on May 16.
The Celtics play eight back-to-back sets in the second half. Because of the reduced 72-game schedule, the Celtics face their Eastern Conference opponents just three times.
Brad Stevens said he was not going to get into any schedule analysis. He has too many other concerns.
“The schedule, I got it like three days ago, and I’ve looked at it like once,” he said. “I’m getting peppered with questions about travel and game times and all kinds of stuff and I’m just trying to figure out how to guard Luka Dončić and Trae Young. Somebody has to figure that stuff out. I assume that we’re playing great players and I assume that we’re playing every night.”
|Thu, March 11||@ Brooklyn||7:30 p.m. (TNT)|
|Sun, March 14||@ Houston||8:00 p.m.|
|Tue, March 16||vs. Utah||7:30 p.m. (TNT)|
|Wed, March 17||@ Cleveland||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri, March 19||vs. Sacramento||7:30 p.m.|
Luka Dončić's finish prompts some deeper thoughts
Jaylen Brown made an interesting comment after the Celtics’ excruciating 110-107 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. He alluded to the defensive switch on Mavericks superstar Dončić that enabled him to face up against Daniel Theis and not Brown.
Dončić swished a 25-footer against the closing Theis that gave the Mavericks a 2-point lead. After Brown tied the game with a floater, Dončić won the game with a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left.
The Celtics are a switching team, a testament to what they believe is their defensive versatility, but when Brown got screened by Dorian Finney-Smith, Theis was on an island. Dončić cleared space with a couple of dribbles and drained the 3-pointer.
Brown could have left Finney-Smith — who had not scored — alone and blitzed Dončić, but didn’t.
“We watched it [Wednesday],” Stevens said. “I think it’s so important for a growing leader to trust your team, and I think the only thing maybe we could have done at that moment would be to have both [Brown and Theis] stay there. Jaylen’s gonna get screened there, so that’s going to be easier said than done, to just say, ‘I got him,’ because when he gets screened and Theis is back, Luka just pulls up and shoots it, or Luka gets you in a little hesitation and go and you foul him.
“So that’s more likely, that it would be two guys on the ball.”
Stevens said he wants Brown to assume more responsibility.
“Do we want guys to take challenges? Do we want guys to give their thoughts on taking it? Heck yeah. That’s part of it,” he said. “And at the same time, we don’t want to open up other issues because of that. The great balance of pride and desire to shut down one thing often times leads to issues elsewhere.
“I think the other thing we could have done different, and this is nitpicking, we have so many other issues that are bigger than that, that maybe both guys just stay with him. First and foremost, a special play by Luka.”
The Celtics ensured that swingman Javonte Green will have his contract guaranteed for the rest of the season at $1.5 million. They had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to make the decision. The move does not guarantee Green will remain a Celtic all season, but it does ensure he’ll get a full year’s salary. His contract could also be used in a potential trade . . . The Hawks were without Cam Reddish (Achilles), who was key in the club’s win last week at TD Garden. John Collins, who also played well in that win, started and had 5 of Atlanta’s first 7 points . . . Wednesday’s 127-112 loss completed the three-game season series with Atlanta. Similarly, their series with Indiana (which come to Boston on Friday), Washington (Sunday), and rival Toronto (March 4) will be completed in the first half.