Group Stage Game 2: Celtics at Raptors, Nov. 17
Boston plays its second Group Stage game on the road against the Raptors. Toronto’s coming off a down season that saw the team be upset by the Bulls in the Play-In Tournament, which only further added to the disappointment.
The Raptors saw their lineup shaken up in a big way this offseason with point guard Fred VanVleet heading to the Rockets in free agency. This takes away one of the team’s most dependable sources of scoring after FVV averaged at least 19 PPG in each of the past three seasons, making this unit clearly worse with Dennis Schroder slated to replace him.
Toronto had one other notable offseason addition in No. 13 pick Gradey Dick, though there’s no telling how he’ll look at this point, which will be less than a month into his rookie season.
Assuming Dick doesn’t explode out of the gates and Schroder remains middling at best, the Raptors are basically running things back. We saw the Celtics run the table and sweep the season series against them last year, so I don’t have any worries about a potential loss here.
Prediction: Celtics 120, Raptors 101
Group Stage Game 3: Celtics at Magic, Nov. 24
One week later brings the Celtics their third Group Stage matchup against Orlando, and I actually think this is Boston’s biggest threat to a perfect record in Group C.
The Magic showed no nerves facing this juggernaut of a roster last season, as they somehow won the season series over the Celtics 3-1. Orlando won in high- and low-scoring contests, with its roster full of young and intriguing pieces going toe-to-toe with the then-reigning East champions.
Jamahl Moseley’s squad projects to be even better in 2023-24 with Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero expected to make a sophomore leap following a great first season. The Magic made a nice veteran signing in free agency as well by adding the sharpshooting Joe Ingles, whose marksman abilities and playoff experience should help bolster this rotation. There’s also sixth overall pick Anthony Black, who could be a headache to guard in the backcourt at 6-foot-7.
The time of tip-off may throw Boston off as well in this one. This game starts at 2:30 p.m. ET on Black Friday, directly following Thanksgiving on Nov. 23. The fact the Celtics will need to travel on the holiday makes the timing here even worse, and it leads to the perfect recipe for an old fashioned trap game.
Prediction: Celtics 98, Magic 108