Some call it “the finest acronym in the English language.” Others say it negatively impacts the quality of regular season games and puts unnecessary wear and tear on players. However you feel about the acronym SEGABABA or the phenomenon it describes (SEcond GAme of a BAck to BAck), neither appears to be going away anytime soon.
While the NBA has been taking steps to spread out the schedule and reduce the number of SEGABABAs, fully getting rid of them doesn’t seem to be a viable option. This year’s schedule boasts a record-low 16.3 back-to-backs per team, which is still quite a bit. Unfortunately, the Clippers got the short end of the stick this year in regards to that aspect of the schedule; they’re tied with four other teams for a league-high 18 SEGABABAs this year.
In my humble opinion, the SEGABABA should be celebrated, not chastised. So let’s do the former by power ranking each one of the Clippers’ 18 SEGABABAs this year, from least to most difficult. (It’ll be fun!) Here’s a link to the Clips’ season schedule, for anyone who wants to play along.
17. March 30th, at Phoenix Suns
Previous game: v. Washington Wizards
In this case, last is least.
The Clippers’ last SEGABABA of the year is against a basement team that should be well into tank mode by this point of the season. A manageable lead-in and the laughably breezy April schedule afterwards? This is as easy as a back-to-back gets for the Clippers.
16. March 21st, at Los Angeles Lakers
Previous game: v. New York Knicks
The second-to-last SEGABABA falls second-to-least in our power rankings. Although it’s buffeted by a slightly more compact schedule, this is a ridiculously easy matchup for the Clippers, who’ve won 11 straight and 15 of 16 against the Lakers. The Knicks lead-in shouldn’t be challenging either; the Clippers have swept them four years running, with all but one game decided by double digits.
15. October 31st, v. Phoenix Suns
Previous game: v. Utah Jazz
The first back-to-back of the season. The Clippers have two days off between their opener in Portland and their home opener against the Jazz. Well-rested, early in the season — that makes for easy pickings for the Clips. It helps that Phoenix is also on a SEGABABA, and that they have to play Golden State.
14. January 24th, at Philadelphia 76ers
Previous game: at Atlanta Hawks
Higher than you might expect for a few reasons. One, it’s a double-road SEGABABA. Two, the Sixers have two days off before this game. Three, remember what happened last season when the Clippers went into Philadelphia on a SEGABABA? Let’s not do that again.
13. November 19th, v. Chicago Bulls
Previous game: at Sacramento Kings
Chicago has the difficult task of figuring out how to make three ball-dominant star players with incompatible playstyles fit together, which sounds like one of those cruelly inventive punishments given to one of the eternally damned in the Greek Underworld. While there’s a possibility they do put it together one day, that day is unlikely to come before mid-November.
12. December 26th, v. Denver Nuggets
Previous game: at Los Angeles Lakers
The Clippers have a SEGABABA in Denver as well, which naturally falls higher on the list. Although this is technically part of a home-home back-to-back, it comes smack-dab in the middle of the Clippers’ nightmare 7-games-in-10-nights stretch at the end of December. It’ll also be their 5th game in 7 nights, and their 6th in 9. There’s high potential for an off night or letdown effort in this game, much like in their home loss to the Nuggets in February.
11. November 12th, at Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous game: at Oklahoma City Thunder
Both OKC and Minnesota count as teams that had enough offseason upheaval that it’ll likely make them easier to beat at the beginning of the year, while they’re still figuring things out. Although the Wolves bring back almost the exact same core, the coaching transition will likely cost them a few wins in the early going, much like with the Thunder and Billy Donovan last year (counterpoint: last time Thibodeau was in his first year coaching a team, they won 60 games and made the Conference Finals).
10. March 4th, at Chicago Bulls
Previous game: at Milwaukee Bucks
OK, I don’t expect the Bulls to be that threatening in March either. That being said, the Clippers had the same road back-to-back last season and they looked terrible on Night 2 in Chicago (before heroic efforts from — of all people — Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson almost saved the day).
9. December 23rd, v. Dallas Mavericks
Previous game: v. San Antonio Spurs
Having both games at home makes this an easier SEGABABA than you might think. The Clippers played San Antonio twice last year in the first half of a back-to-back; both were losses, both were in Texas. After the first one, in December, the Clippers went to Houston and had one of their worst performances of the year. After the second one in March, the Clippers went to Houston and had one of their best performances of the year (of course, they then lost their next three, including back-to-back losses to injury-devastated Grizzlies and Pelicans teams that probably would have lost to 90% of this year’s Olympic teams). Take from that what you will.
8. March 9th, at Memphis Grizzlies
Previous game: v. Minnesota Timberwolves
Here’s a look at the first half of the Clippers’ March schedule, based on where each game is played.
|3/13||Salt Lake City||UTA|
That’s a trip itinerary made by the world’s worst travel agent. So much needless shuttling back and forth across multiple time zones, for just one or two games at a time. It’s far from the worst part of the stretch, but the Wolves/Grizzlies back-to-back will still be extremely taxing on the team, especially if Minnesota is operating at full bounce by this point.
7. November 5th, at San Antonio Spurs
Previous game: at Memphis Grizzlies
The first road SEGABABA of the season could be easier than expected, assuming that Memphis and San Antonio need more than a week of regular season basketball to integrate their major offseason signings. It helps that San Antonio has to play in Utah the night before.
6. March 16th, at Denver Nuggets
Previous game: v. Milwaukee Bucks
Refer back to the table under number 8 for a moment (aka the most absurd and inefficient way possible to get frequent flyer miles). Near the very end comes a SEGABABA in Denver, notorious for being the most difficult place in the NBA to play on a SEGABABA. I don’t know whether the Clippers will win or lose that game, but I do know that it’s guaranteed to be ugly, nauseating basketball and you’re much better off scheduling something else to do that night right now. Maybe save that evening for spring cleaning or something.
5. December 2nd, at New Orleans Pelicans
Previous game: at Cleveland Cavaliers
If someone told you that the Clippers would split this back-to-back set and asked you to guess the game they lost, I’d pick New Orleans without a second’s hesitation. Strange things happen to the Clips in that city, man. They’ve won the season series with the Pelicans four years straight, but every year they drop exactly one game. The last three have all come in New Orleans against Pelicans teams that come into the game missing half their roster, yet still manage to pull out a headscratching win over a clearly superior Clippers team.
In 2014, the loss was a SEGABABA the day after a huge win in OKC on a Sunday ABC matinee; in 2015 the loss was the first night of a back-to-back, and on the SEGABABA they destroyed the Spurs in San Antonio. In 2017, they’ll somehow beat LeBron and Cleveland (who more than any other team in the league seem to absolutely have the Clippers’ number), and then they’ll lose the next night to a Pelicans team starting its mascot because Anthony Davis is injured again.
4. February 2nd, v. Golden State Warriors
Previous game: at Phoenix Suns
While the February schedule isn’t that demanding in regards to the frequency of games, it brings with it a murderer’s row of SEGABABAs. This one is the easiest of the three because the first night’s opponent shouldn’t be difficult, and because the Clippers only play one game in the week leading up to the Suns game (of course, that game happens to be a road date in Oracle Arena). The Warriors also come into this one on a SEGABABA; they’ll be playing Charlotte at home the night before.
3. December 31st, at Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous game: at Houston Rockets
This back-to-back comes at the very end of the 7-in-10 stretch, which probably means they’ll lost both games by 20+. There’s a chance Doc decides it’s not worth it and decides to just rest his starters in December, even though playoff implications might be on the line.
2. February 6th, at Toronto Raptors
Previous game: at Boston Celtics
While the travel isn’t too strenuous, the oppnents are challenging. And more importantly these February trips to the Northeast have gone really badly for the Clippers the last few years, especially when the Raptors are involved. Like with the Pelicans, I’m not betting against history here.
1. February 24th, v. San Antonio Spurs
Previous game: at Golden State Warriors
The Clippers get this gift-wrapped present from the NBA League Office right after All-Star Break finishes. The extra rest doesn’t make a difference here for LA, since this will be the Spurs’ first game after the break.
It might be possible to get a worse 1-2 draw than this in theory, but in practice I’m not sure that you’ll find any team that has a tougher back-to-back than this.