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The 66 Game NBA Schedule - the Fine Strokes

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Ever since the lockout lifted, all we've heard are rumors. Maybe Chris Paul? Maybe Dwight Howard? Who does Grant Hill want to sign with? What will DJ get offered? Quite frankly, while its fun to speculate, most of the popular rumors are not going to happen. We've yet to hear anything solid about our beloved NBA and, at least for me, hearing the same trade scenarios from 100 different columnists has become tiring. But today, at last, something solid and sure. The Clips will take on the Warriors in Oakland at 7:30 on Christmas night, and then will have 65 more regular-season matchups spanning the four months until April 26th.

After a long, painful lockout, the NBA has had to get a bit creative in order to fit in more games. What does this mean for the Clippers? Well, for a more in-depth look at the basic structure of the shortened schedule, check out Steve's article on the broad strokes. Here are the details:

  • Back-to-back-to-backs: Typically the NBA never features these monsters, but, in order to squeeze in the games, it's a last resort. Every team will have one, but some teams will have two, or as many as three. The Clippers' schedule features two of them. The first is against New Jersey, at Utah, and then home again vs Dallas on January 16-18. In the second, the Clippers play in Indy, in Oklahoma, and then in New Orleans from March 20th to 22nd. Thats right, the Clippers don't have the maximum! [Note by Steve Perrin, 12/06/11 9:36 PM PST ] Turns out, the Clippers do have the maximum. Though the league said some teams would have three, in the end none did. Ten teams have two, including of course the LAC.
  • Back-to-backs: Always a dreaded feature in the NBA schedule, and the Clippers normally take more than their share of these. Last year, they had 21. This year, they have 16 back-to-backs, not including the above stretches. The hardest ones will be double road games, where the Clippers need to travel to a road arena, and then to a new city the second night.
  • East Teams who will not play the Clips at Staples: Unfortunately for the STH, six Eastern Conference teams will not visit us this year. While it is a break that the Clippers get to miss a game playing some elite opponents like New York and Orlando they miss out on cupcake games versus Charlotte, Cleveland, Indiana, and Philadelphia. Even though anything can happen, and the Clips seem to play to to the level of their opponents, most of us would take the odds vs Charlotte over the odds vs Orlando.
  • East Teams who the Clips will not visit: Unfortunately for the STH's of six Eastern Teams, the Clippers will miss those games on the road. Fortunately, we won't have to watch likely losses in Boston, Chicago, and Miami. The Clippers miss out on somewhat favorable road matchups at Detroit, Milwaukee, and Toronto. This rule leaves only nine road games on the other side of the country. What's the over/under on how many of those come in a row during the annual Grammy's trip? Five?
  • Three Eastern Teams the Clippers play twice: Due to the limitations on mathcups with the opposite conference, only three Eastern teams will see Blake Griffin twice this year. (Normally, all teams play every team from the other conference twice.) These teams will be Atlanta, New Jersey, and Washington. This certainly favors us, as we avoid all of the dominant Eastern teams.
  • The schedule this year, acording to NBA.com and numerous other sources (key word: "according"), would feature every team playing two conference opponents four times*. Outside of the Pacific Division, where every team (normally!) plays every other team four times, the Clips also match up with two other conference opponents four times. One is the Denver Nuggets, who are an interesting sight this year. Who knows what their roster and rotation will look like this year? The other will be Minnesota. Guess what? If we go 4-0 in that series, we get more lottery balls this spring.
  • Matinee Games: Every year, the "other team" in L.A. plays late-night games on weekends while our Clippers take the prime spot in the afternoons. Last year, we saw ten weekend matinees. Due to the compactness of the schedule, we will watch only five early home tip-offs this season.
  • Road trips: Again, an area where the Clippers seem to always get a bad deal. Last year, the Clippers saw a massive 11 game road trip, spanning 21 days! They also faced a five-gamer, and two four game trips. This year, we see the Clips take on their longest road trip on the year in February as always (due to the Grammy awards), and it lasts for a relatively small six games over nine days. The Clips drew another long road trip in early March; another six-gamer spanning nine days.
  • Strength of Schedule: I'm unsure how this is calculated, but according to ESPN, the Clippers had a SOS of .506 last year, ranking them 10th in the league. Is there any chance the Clips grab a relatively easy schedule this season? Probably not. Oddly enough, the Bulls, who had the best record in the league last year, had the weakest schedule, at .488.
  • March: In the 31-day month of March, the Clippers draw a massive 20 games. This includes the six game road trip, followed by a six game home stand, then a three game road spurt before ending the month on a five game home stand. March features the most brutal stretch of the schedule for the club, playing nine games in twelve days.
  • *Late wacky schedule change: Unexpectedly, the NBA switched up the mathcups from what was expected. Unbelievably, the Clippers will NOT get their four matchups against the Lakers this year- yes, that's right. In a season where the goal is to make conference teams play more often to reduce travel, the NBA reduced games played between the only two teams who share a city! Instead, we will face the formidable Oklahoma City Thunder four times this season.
  • National TV Games: The Clippers will get on the national slate 23 times this season. The breakdown: four games on TNT, ten on ESPN, and nine on NBATV. That isn't including any last-minute added games (NBATV fan night, etc.).

And there you have it. We get 66 games in less than four months. Here's a link to the full schedule: http://www.nba.com/clippers/schedule/