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With the first full month of the Celtic’s 2012-2013 season behind them, Boston holds a middling 11-9 record. At this point the Celtics are still — to put it lightly — a work in progress. A busy December schedule will be a pivotal step in Boston’s march toward a top playoff seed.
At times Boston’s offense has resembled a young West Coast team, complete with Jeff Green jams and monstrous Rondo-to-Wilcox alley oops. More often than not, though, we have seen Green parked in the corner waiting (but not exactly wanting) to shoot a three, while Wilcox catches his breath and Doc Rivers continues the all-but-busted small ball experiment.
The defense has been equally inconsistent, ranking 23rd in OPPG and allowing opponents to shoot 48% from the field, third worst in the league. But again, Boston counters this setback by shooting 48% themselves, second only to the Miami Heat.
As December begins, the Celtics find themselves in fourth place — no, not in East — but in the Atlantic Division, where they share a 11-9 record with the 76ers, whom the Celtics have lost to once this season.
While Boston has a “statement” win over Oklahoma City, they were also infamously flat in a home-opening loss to the Bucks, and were blown out by a non-contending Detroit team. A fifth of Boston’s wins have come against last place Washington, and neither were comfortable victories.
With an inconsistent November in the past, let’s look ahead to what can be expected in December.
Boston will play fourteen games in December, which features four back-to-backs and nine on the road, including a three-game California road trip to end the month.
The Celtics opened December last Saturday night with a painful loss in Milwaukee, a game that saw Boston run off to a 17-0 start. Rajon Rondo returned Wednesday night for a comfortable win over Kevin Love and the Timberwolves at the Garden. Over the weekend, the Celtics split a home-and-home with Philadelphia.
From there, Boston will get two days of rest before hosting the struggling Mavericks, have a night off, and then enter another back-to-back at Houston and San Antonio. The C’s will be looking for revenge after a poor defensive effort against Tony Parker and the Spurs, so don’t be surprised if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce play limited minutes against the Rockets.
Three days later the Celtics visit Chicago, where they have already recorded one of their four road wins. Boston returns home the next night to face the Cavaliers, who proved tricky for Boston last season and, as a young offensive team, could be trouble in the midst of a busy month. It is unclear whether or not Kyrie Irving will be available for that game after he fractured his finger on November 19th.
Boston then enjoys some time off with one game in five nights, a date with the Bucks Dec. 21, before traveling to Brooklyn on Christmas Day. Boston decimated Brooklyn at the Barclays Center in the preseason and suffered a tough loss two weeks ago as Rondo sat out with an ankle injury. The Christmas Day meeting was made all the more interesting last week when Rajon Rondo and Nets forward Kris Humphries got into a physical altercation in an embarrassing home loss for Boston.
December closes with a west coast road trip (LA Clippers, Golden State, Sacramento) to cap off four games in six nights.
An ideal scenario would see Boston suffering no more than four losses in December, bringing their record to a respectable 19-11. However, there are plenty of landmines along the way that could see Boston hovering around .500 come New Year’s. More importantly, Boston needs to take care of their Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference rivals while tightening up the surprisingly lame defense.