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Irish Coffee: Top 10 observations of Celtics schedule

07.27.12 at 1:20 pm ET

In case you missed NBA TV’s very special release of the 2012-13 regular season schedule, hold onto your hats for this breaking news: The Celtics will play 82 games over the span of six months — exactly 41 apiece at home and on the road, if you can believe that coincidence — and each one of them counts equally against their record. Of course, some offer more intrigue than others. That’s where the following 10 observations come into play.

10. Opening Night: Remarkably, the first game of the entire NBA schedule features the unstoppable force known as the Wizards and the immovable force that is the Cavaliers. Thankfully, that’s not the inaugural national TV broadcast. That honor belongs to the Celtics and Heat, who play their Eastern Conference finals rematch on Oct. 30 in Miami at 8 p.m. (TNT), followed by Mavericks at Lakers at 10:30 p.m. The NBA’s selection of C’s-Heat is no surprise, whose rivalry only gets more interesting now that Ray Allen has taken his talents to South Beach.

9. Many Happy Returns: We’ll get to Allen’s return to Boston momentarily, but the C’s new additions have their own homecoming dances. Celtics free agent signee Jason Terry won’t play his first road game in Dallas since the 2003-04 season until March 22. Since C’s sign-and-trade acquisition Courtney Lee has played for three different teams in four years, his homecoming won’t be so emotional, but on Dec. 14 he visits Houston, where he played for the Rockets the past two years. And, believe it or not, Jeff Green still hasn’t played in Oklahoma City since the Thunder shipped him to Boston for Kendrick Perkins in 2011, so March 10 marks his return.

8. Weekend Warriors: Of all their weekend and holiday games this coming season, the C’s most marquee matchup comes on Christmas Day. They’ll play the first of five NBA games on Dec. 25 — their fifth straight on the holiday — in Brooklyn against the Nets at noon (ESPN). Doc Rivers & Co. can’t complain too much, since they’ll have the following events free: Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Tax Day. The Celtics do visit the Knicks on Easter Sunday in addition to playing 19 Friday games (13 home), 11 Saturday games (3 home) and 11 Sunday games (4 home).

7. National Television: Since Rajon Rondo messes around and gets triple doubles when the lights shine brightest, it’s important to note the Celtics play 26 games on national TV: Nine on ESPN, eight on TNT, seven on NBA TV and two on ABC. The slate includes all four of their respective games against the Heat and Nets as well as both showdowns with the Lakers, Thunder and Clippers. Fortunately, 15 of the 26 games are at the Garden.

6. Long Division: In their quest for a sixth straight Atlantic Division crown, the Celtics play four games against 10 Eastern Conference opponents, including all four division rivals: Knicks, Nets, Raptors and 76ers as well as the Bucks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Hawks, Heat and Wizards. They play three apiece against their four remaining conference opponents: Bobcats, Magic, Pacers and Pistons. And they face each of the 15 Western Conference teams twice.

5. Home Sweet Home: The Celtics host four home stands longer than two games — all with a number of favorable matchups — the longest of which features five straight contests against the Suns, Rockets, Bobcats, Hornets and Bulls from Jan. 9-18 with days off sandwiched around the stretch for a total of 12 straight days in Boston. They also play four straight from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1 (Heat, Kings, Magic, Clippers), three straight from March 13-18 (Raptors, Bobcats, Heat) and another four straight from April 3-10 (Pistons, Cavaliers, Wizards, Nets).

4. Road Trip: The Celtics get an extra day off before the Feb. 17 NBA All-Star Game, but they begin their longest road trip of the season — the dreaded West Coast tour — immediately afterwards. They visit the Nuggets, Lakers, Suns, Blazers and Jazz from Feb. 19-25. Their schedule features three other trips longer than two games, including a Texas two-step and their two other cross country trips: Dec. 14-18 (Rockets, Spurs, Bulls), Dec. 25-30 (Nets, Clippers, Warriors, Kings) and March 20-23 (Lakers, Suns, Blazers).

3. Tribute Band: Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the glorious return of a player who gave so much to the Celtics, replete with a tribute video, standing ovation and Kevin Garnett embrace: Greg Stiemsma‘s Timberwolves visit Boston on Dec. 5. Also, mark your calendar for the returns of Sasha Pavlovic (Nov. 30 vs. Blazers) and Ryan Hollins (Feb. 3 vs. Clippers) in addition to potential visits from JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams (Jan. 11 vs. Rockets) and E’Twaun Moore, whose reported interest from the Bulls would bring him here on Jan. 18 and Feb. 13. We’ll wait and see where Mickael Pietrus, Jermaine O’Neal and Marquis Daniels land. Oh, and there’s the little matter of Allen’s homecoming as a member of the Heat on Jan. 27 and March 18.

2. Star Wars: In terms of the season’s best tickets and must-watch games, the first two dates Paul Pierce probably circled last night are Feb. 7 and 20: The C’s respective home and road contests against Kobe Bryant and the rival Lakers. As for when the game’s other superstars come to Boston: Tim Duncan‘s Spurs (Nov. 21), Kevin Durant‘s Thunder (Nov. 23), Deron Williams‘ Nets (Nov. 28, April 10), Kevin Love‘s Timberwolves (Dec. 5), Dirk Nowitzki‘s Mavericks (Dec. 12), Derrick Rose‘s Bulls (Jan. 18, Feb. 13), Carmelo Anthony‘s Knicks (Jan. 24, March 26), LeBron James‘ Heat (Jan. 27, March 18), probably Dwight Howard‘s Magic (probably Feb. 1) and Chris Paul‘s Clippers (Feb. 3, when Blake Griffin will make his Garden debut).

1. Double Your Pleasure: Ah, the dreaded back-to-backs. Thankfully, we’ve seen the last back-to-back-to-back until the next NBA lockout, but the Celtics still play on consecutive nights 22 times. Remarkably, the second night falls on the road 19 times (10 following home games and nine after another road game). The C’s don’t host back-to-back games and play just three home games the night after playing on the road. The increased youth and depth of the 2012-13 Celtics roster should help, but it’s still going to be a grind. At least the get their only string of four games in five nights out of the way early from Nov. 14-18. And, in addition to the All-Star break, the Celtics have six stretches of at least three days off: Nov. 4-6, Dec. 2-4, Dec. 9-11, Dec. 22-24, Feb. 26-28 and March 2-4.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

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