Remember that stretch of the schedule where the Los Angeles Clippers seemed to always be on the road and playing on the second night of back-to-back games every time they faced a difficult opponent? Oh, and all while Chris Paul was injured? And usually on National TV? Losses in Portland and San Antonio and Indiana and Oakland were all at least partly about the schedule, even if the Clippers weren't likely to win those games anyway.
Also, remember how these things tend to even out over the course of the season?
Early in December of 2012, I took a look at the Clippers upcoming schedule and allowed myself to get a little greedy. The Clippers proceeded to have a perfect 16-0 month as part of a franchise record 17 game winning streak. Well, I'm feeling greedy again.
I pointed out in the preview for the Pelicans game that there are only four games in the stretch of 14 that began in New Orleans against teams with winning records. What I didn't realize at the time is that, amazingly, of those four games, three of them are home games against an opponent playing the second game of a road back-to-back! Having just come off a section of games in which scheduling quirks made the toughest games even tougher, the Clippers now find themselves in a stretch where most of the quality opposition will actually be weakened by the schedule.
The Clippers play the Rockets in STAPLES Center tomorrow night in a crucial game that will determine third place at least for Thursday morning, and could also have long term implications as the Clippers would clinch the season series against Houston with a win. And the Rockets just happen to be playing in Sacramento tonight.
In two weeks, the Clippers face the Suns on Monday night, March 10 followed by a game against the Warriors on Wednesday, March 12. Those games are obviously important when you consider that the Clippers currently lead the Pacific Division, three games up on Golden State and four games ahead of Phoenix. And for each of those March home games, the opponent will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Basically, for the next 13 games, between now and March 27, things could not be much more favorable, schedule-wise. Eight of the 13 are at home; nine are in Los Angeles counting the road game against the pathetic other LA team whose name escapes me. Four of the five road games are against teams either quickly dropping or already out of the playoff race in the West (11th through 15th in the Western Conference standings). The Clippers don't have a true road "trip" (just three out and backs) for the next four weeks.
There are only two games in the next 13 where the deck is not stacked in the Clippers favor: a week from tonight in Phoenix against the Suns, and March 17 on the road against the Nuggets when the Clippers are in the second game of a back-to-back -- and even for that one, while Denver has traditionally been one of toughest places to play, their home record this season isn't that great, and by mid-March they may have lost their will to keep fighting.
I'm not predicting a 14-1 run here (going back to the win in Oklahoma City); I am saying that it is entirely possible. In the same way that last season's 17 game winning streak wasn't a complete shock given the way the schedule fell into place, this is a similarly fortuitous moment in time for the Clippers. If they can take advantage of it in like fashion, they could mount a serious attack on the two seed, while also building momentum heading into the playoffs.