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Breaking down the schedule

The Celtics' 2011-12 schedule is out, so what does it mean? ESPN Boston's Peter May breaks it down, including a look at the five toughest games on the schedule:

Can we go out on a limb here and say Lakers, Lakers, Heat, Heat, Heat? OK, that wouldn't be fair to the others, so let's limit one team per anticipated game and go from there.

I think we can start with the season opener against the Knicks on Christmas Day. The Knicks stand to be the Celtics' strongest threat to another Atlantic Division title and they will have Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups from Day 1. Plus, it's the first game of the season -- for everyone.

The second would be Game No. 2, the Celtics' first matchup with Miami since the playoffs last spring. Each team will have played on Christmas, the Heat having to watch the Mavericks raise the 2011 championship banner. It's hard to remember a tougher stretch out of the box for the Celtics, as they continue with a roadie in New Orleans after Miami in the first of their back-to-backs.

After the Knicks and Heat, we move to a visit from the NBA champion Mavericks on Dec. 11. Gotta put them on the list.

For the fourth game, let's include the Thunder on their Jan. 16 visit. It not only marks the return of Kendrick Perkins, but a chance to see a team that has the NBA's leading scorer and is a legitimate threat to win it all.

We'll close out the top five with the visit of the Lakers -- duh -- on Feb. 9. We're leaving the Bulls off of this list, but it you want a 5A, then it's Jan. 13. Orlando is on Jan. 23.

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