Citizen djmccaslin put some good research into this FanPost looking at the second half schedules (that is, after the All Star break) of the top teams in the Western Conference. I thought I'd bump it up because there's some good stuff in here. The Clippers play the fewest games, and have a relatively home-friendly second half as well (after this Grammy trip ends, that is), which could help them build some momentum heading into the playoffs. Note that this was written before the Rudy Gay trade, so it's hard to know how that will affect things. Steve
I took some time to look at the second half scheduling and what might be in store for the Clippers and their most direct competition (within the division and for seeds #1-6). What I found is very interesting:
LAC 26 games (15H/11A) in 56 days -- 14 games vs .500 or better teams (7 games vs this group)
GSW 30 games (18H/12A) in 58 days -- 14 games vs .500 or better teams (6 games vs this group)
LAL 28 games (13H/15A) in 57 days -- 15 games vs .500 or better teams (7 games vs this group)
SAS 28 games (17H/11A) in 58 days -- 15 games vs .500 or better teams (11 games vs this group)
OKC 29 games (14H/15A) in 57 days -- 18 games vs .500 or better teams (8 games vs this group)
MEM 31 games (12H/19A) in 58 days -- 15 games vs .500 or better teams (6 games vs this group)
DEN 28 games (16H/12A) in 58 days -- 15 games vs .500 or better teams (7 games vs this group)
1. Clippers start their 2nd half of play later (2/21) and play the least amount of games.
2. I did not note this above for the other teams but the Clippers had 8 breaks of 2 or more days between games from 10/31 to 2/14 (total of 56 games). In the second half of the season, the Clippers have 10 such multi-day breaks for only 26 games.
3. GSW have 4 moore games to go but only 2 more extra days. They also have the most home games but also have 6 back2back games. The Clippers also have 6 but will have more rest overall in the 2nd half. Also, 2 of the 6 back2back games are the 4 final games of the season so depending on where they stand, the Clippers might be resting some people.
4. OKC has a tricky schedule with more quality opponents and slightly more road games.
5. By far, I think that Memphis has the toughest schedule with the most games and fewest home games.
6. I think the Spurs have the easiest schedule, even though they have the most games vs this group of teams.
How I think it will play out, given what we know about the teams now and the 2nd half schedule outlook:
Western Conference playoff seeds:
#1 - SAS -- They already have the best record and should solidify it in the 2nd half due to their schedule. The Clippers are 2.5 games back but hold a 2-0 series lead so another win vs them and that essentially turns into a 1/2 game lead. But chances are Spurs hold onto this spot.
#2 - OKC -- If the Clippers had won the game last week vs OKC, thus preventing OKC from winning the season series (they only play 3 times this season), I might put the Clippers here given each team's 2nd half schedule and there's only a 1.5 game difference currently. But that's not the case so barring an injury to Durant or Westbrook, they should lock up the 2nd seed.
#3 - LAC -- Clippers have a 3 game lead over MEM and 4.5 over GSW (but really only 3.5 because GSW has the season series). I think if the Clippers can get to the All-Star break at anywhere from 39-17 OR 40-16 (which means going 6-4 or 7-3 rest of the way--Grammy Road trip AND two games vs HOU (H) and LAL (A)). I Think given their cushion, they should solidify the 3 seed with a few games left and may try to fight for the 2 seed.
#4 - DEN -- This is where things get interesting. A 1/2 gamge separates Denver and GSW but Denver won the season series over GSW which is a good ace to have. Even with GSW's favorable home schedule, I think the amount of games may catch up to them and I think Denver's altitude home advantage will help them catch and either tie (giving them the tiebreaker) or pass GSW.
#5 - GSW -- I think GSW stays right were they are now with Memphis falling and Denver rising past them. Given the number of games they have left, any injury could cause them to fall further down but they have a 4 game cushion with the 7-8 seeds as of now.
#6 - Memphis -- I'm assuming they do not make a blockbuster trade and even if they do, it wont be for a superstar. They are 3 games behind LAC (also down 2-0 in series so far) but 5.5 games ahead of 7th seed. Their schedule is what makes me believe they will fall behind Den and GSW. A lot of games and a lot of away games makes me believe they finish 1-2 games behind Den/GSW.
#7 - LAL -- I dont want the Lakers to make the playoffs because I enjoy all the handwringing and "sky is falling" hysteria but in the end they will. Maybe not because they go 22-6 in the 2nd half but because I dont think Portland, Utah, or Houston will be as good in the 2nd half as they are in the 1st.
#8 - HOU -- I think Houston makes a trade before the deadline to improve their team and I think Utah makes one that ships out Milsap or Jefferson (thereby weakening them).