With LeBron James leaving Cleveland to join the Lakers, ending his streak of eight consecutive seasons representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, the door is open for a new power to rise. And the NBA is making it quite clear that it views the Celtics and 76ers as two of the teams most likely to fill the void.
Boston and Philadelphia will face each other in Boston in the Oct. 16 season opener at TD Garden at 8 p.m. as part of TNT’s season tip-off doubleheader that also includes a game between the Thunder and Warriors. Then on Christmas Day, the Celtics and 76ers will face each other again at TD Garden. That game will be broadcast by ABC.
On Oct. 19 on ESPN, the Celtics will visit the Toronto Raptors as part of the league’s nationally televised opening-week slate. Toronto finished four games ahead of the Celtics in the conference standings last season and last month traded DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs in a deal for star forward Kawhi Leonard.
“It might be a little more intense with a couple of those games with the Philly series,” Celtics center Aron Baynes said. “And we never played well against Toronto last year, so that’s something we’ll be focused on, trying to do better again them. It will be a good measuring stick for us early on. At the same time we’ll have such a big internal focus at that time, it’s about what we can do to improve and keep getting better.”
The Celtics needed just five games to defeat the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, though the series was more competitive than that result indicates. The Celtics will welcome back injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward this year, while the 76ers will continue to follow the lead of their two young stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The Celtics-76ers game on Christmas is one of five matchups on the league’s marquee regular-season date. In the other games, the Knicks will face the Bucks, the Rockets will play the Thunder, the Lakers will play the Warriors, and the Jazz will face the Trail Blazers.
The full NBA schedule is expected to be released later this week.
|Tue., Oct. 16||76ers at Celtics||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Tue., Oct. 16||Thunder at Warriors||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Wed., Oct. 17||Pelicans at Rockets||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Wed., Oct. 17||Mavericks at Suns||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Thu., Oct. 18||Bulls at 76ers||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Thu., Oct. 18||Lakers at Trail Blazers||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Fri., Oct. 19||Celtics at Raptors||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Fri., Oct. 19||Warriors at Jazz||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sat., Oct. 20||Raptors at Wizards||7 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Sat., Oct. 20||Rockets at Lakers||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun., Oct. 21||Rockets at Clippers||9 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Bucks at Knicks||Noon||ESPN|
|Thunder at Rockets||3 p.m.||ABC|
|76ers at Celtics||5:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Lakers at Warriors||8 p.m.||ESPN/ABC|
|Trail Blazers at Jazz||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Pelicans at Grizzlies||5:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Rockets at 76ers||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Warriors at Lakers||10:30 p.m.||TNT|