The NBA schedule is out, and it's time to grab your highlighter.
For Day 11 our Celtics Summer Forecast, we asked our panel of Boston Celtics bloggers: Which game on the 2016-17 schedule is most intriguing to you?
We already detailed Boston's return to the national spotlight and 10 games to watch. From Paul Pierce's potential final game in Boston, to a visit from Kevin Durant and the Warriors, and any time the Celtics and Cavaliers meet, here's what intrigues our panel:
Brian Robb, CelticsHub (Feb. 5 vs. Clippers): The popular choice may be Durant's sole visit to Boston, but that pick ignores one (potential) last game for a Celtics legend on the Garden floor. If Paul Pierce elects to put off retirement for one more season, you can count on an emotional goodbye from Boston fans for the Truth sticking out above the rest.
Tom Westerholm, MassLive (Nov. 18 vs. Warriors): Last year's matchup with the Warriors was electric. This year, it'll be even more electric -- and also way more hostile. It doesn't hurt that, once again, the Celtics get an early-season matchup with Golden State before the novelty of the team will have worn off.
Sam Sheehan, Celtics Reddit and CLNS Radio (Feb. 5 vs. Clippers): If you're someone (like me) who maintains that Blake Griffin might be the most "gettable" star, particularly in free agency, this has got to look tasty. This game will only be a few days before the trade deadline, and there's a real chance the Clippers could be in turmoil. Doc Rivers will be in town and Danny Ainge can stalk him like the "Stranger Things" demogorgon if Rivers screens his calls. Also, Al Horford cited the Celtics fans' passion and crowd noise as a reason for his move. Can't think of a better time for the Garden to be rocking than a Sunday national TV matinee that gives fans plenty of time to sleep it off before Monday work. Not to mention the Celtics' home game against the Clippers last year was one of the year's best.
Ben Mark, Red's Army(March 1 vs. Cavaliers): By this point in the season we will have a good idea of whether the Celtics can hang with the Cavs in the Eastern Conference. Let's say that they can. This third of four tilts with LeBron James -- and the first in Boston -- could have meaning as the conference's best jostle for seeding, and any deadline trades that change the complexion of the two teams will play a factor. What's more, if the Celtics are indeed nipping at Cleveland's heels in the standings, then Boston should get the Cavs' best effort. Additionally, it's an ESPN telecast on a Wednesday night from the Garden. Other games have more sizzle, but this one should be a heck of a second-half measuring stick for the Celtics.
Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (Nov. 18 vs. Warriors): If Jae Crowder's comments were any indication, the Celtics definitely felt spurned by Durant’s decision to go to the Warriors. While Danny Ainge was left standing at the altar, ring in hand, he has surely moved on. Crowder and the rest of the Durant-pitch envoy probably won’t until they get their first shot at him in the Garden. If there was any chance for a rivalry game this season in the Garden, this is it.
Jon Duke, CSL on CLNS Radio (Dec. 25 vs. Knicks): I hate the Knicks, so I take great joy in their irrelevance to the NBA landscape for the better part of 40 years. The opportunity to sit by the yule log, unwrapping presents with an egg nog in hand and seeing the Celtics once again prove to be the superior team will make my holiday bright. There's nothing quite like seeing the glimmer fall out of the eyes of starry-eyed Knicks fans when the latest crop of over-the-hill stars fail to produce a winning team.
Dan Greenberg, Barstool Sports (Nov. 18 vs. Golden State): This really applies to both games with Golden State. We all heard about how mad Crowder was at Durant after sharing the Celtics' secrets on how they beat the Warriors, only to see him join them. People forget, the Celtics are one of the few teams in the NBA that continue to play the Warriors close. Since the 2013-14 season, the two teams have played six times, with five of those games being within five points, and three of them within three points. What makes this game so exciting is the Warriors' biggest strength also aligns with what I would consider the Celtics' biggest strength. To stay close you have to have guards who can defend their position, and few teams in the league have the caliber of defensive guards that the Celtics do.
Ryan Bernardoni, CelticsHub (Jan. 25 vs. Rockets): Styles make fights, and there will be fewer bigger clashes of style than this one. The Rockets have quintupled-down on their identity as an all-offense bunch, adding Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, swapping Dwight Howard's minutes for more Clint Capela and bringing in Mike D'Antoni to coach the bunch. Houston will be waiting in Boston when the Celtics arrive for the home end of a back-to-back, but teams with high aspirations don't get to make schedule excuses. James Harden against Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Crowder and Terry Rozier is worth the price of admission on its own, but seeing a potential No. 1 team defense face off against the favorites for No. 1 team offense is what raises this game's profile. The big matchups against the Cavaliers, Warriors, Hawks, Raptors, and Knicks (at least on Christmas) will get the majority of the attention, but this is a potential under-the-radar fun night.
John Karalis, Red's Army (Dec. 25 vs. Knicks): THE CELTICS ARE BACK, BABY! This is just exciting because it certifies the rebuild. Boston fans don't have to argue, "Hey, the Celtics are good, you just don't know it yet" any longer. People know, and so does the league, because they're one of the marquee teams getting the unofficial opening day treatment by playing on the league's biggest day. Young kids get to see Celtics basketball in the afternoon and fall in love with the sport while making special memories with their parents. This is how fan bases grow. Plus, we get to watch the Celtics bounce that "super team" in Madison Square Garden. Merry Christmas to one and all!
Justin Poulin, CSL on CLNS Radio (March 8 vs. Warriors): I know this won't be the most original answer, and I certainly didn't go outside of the box. But let's face it, Crowder has already written off Toronto, and while I would like to answer this question with "every matchup with Raptors" as a gauge to measure the progress of the team, no one matchup with the Raptors or even Cleveland brings the same level of intrigue that a rematch against Golden State on the road after the All-Star break. If a trade does happen, this is a test. If a trade doesn't happen, this is a test. We'll see if Durant took good notes in his free-agent meeting with the Celtics and just how much Brad Stevens has up his sleeve. Who doesn't want blood now that the Warriors are the NBA version of Jedi Night turned Sith Lord?
Mike Dynon, Red's Army (Dec. 9 vs. Raptors): The Raptors undoubtedly know that many observers are picking the Celtics to surpass them in the East. Toronto will play the disrespect card for this first meeting, while the Celtics will certainly want to prove themselves and protect home court. Expect a playoff atmosphere.
Sam Packard, WEEI (Nov. 18 vs. Warriors): After months of pining for him, it will be fun to see the Boston fans boo Durant mercilessly. Also, by November, the Greatest Show on Wood will have worked out the kinks and will be performing at, dare I say, an elite level. The Celtics have played great games against the Dubs in the Brad Stevens era; it will be interesting to see how they match up against this version of the juggernaut.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog(Feb. 5 vs. Clippers): Paul Pierce hasn’t officially announced his return, but if he does come back, that Sunday afternoon game on ABC will likely be his last in the Garden. There could be some intrigue surrounding Blake Griffin in Boston because he’s a player that Danny Ainge could pursue in the near future, but on this day it’ll be about Celtics' past. The Captain comes home and we’ll all be there for his tearful goodbye.
Ian Keilty, Dirty Water Media (Nov. 18 vs. Warriors): Any chance you get to match up against the league's best team is a big meeting, but there's more to it than that. The Celtics set themselves up as a nice cross-country rival for the West's super team by splitting last year's season series. At the Garden, the Celtics took the then-undefeated Warriors to the brink of defeat in a double-overtime thriller and then got revenge by snapping the Warriors 54-game home winning streak in their meeting in the Bay Area. This will also be Durant's first time in Boston since deciding to sign with the Warriors over the Celtics, so you can bet that Celtics fans will let him hear it.
Jake Keaney, CelticsBlog (March 1 vs. Cavaliers): If the playoff picture is set by the last week of the season with Cleveland and Boston comfortably holding the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, the final meeting between these teams on April 5 might not be that interesting, especially if the teams decide to rest starters for the postseason. Thus, I’m excited for the Cavs to face the Celtics in Boston for their penultimate meeting on March 1st on ESPN. If Boston is within striking distance for the No. 1 seed, this game could be especially competitive.
Mark Van Deusen, CelticsLife(Oct. 27 at Bulls): It's the first TNT game of the season and the whole country will be watching. Not only that, but it's also the debut of the new Dwyane Wade (and Rajon Rondo!) Bulls. Plus, Boston will be tested with the second night of a back-to-back on the road right out of the gates, a situation it has excelled in under Stevens. Assuming the Celtics handle Brooklyn in their opener, this will be a chance to immediately establish themselves as one of the East's elite.
Rich Jensen, Red's Army (April 5 vs. Cavaliers): What the heck. I'm going to go full-on homer on this one and assume that this game is going to have seeding ramifications. The Celtics should be coming off a hot streak, given the state of their schedule leading up to this game (nine of the previous 12 at home, with Indiana possibly the toughest opponent), they'll be hosting Cleveland and there should be a raucous crowd on hand. Of course, I didn't even predict 55 wins for the Celtics, so basically I'm trying to have it both ways at this point.