The first part of the regular-season schedule were released Friday, as the NBA will wait until later in the year — once they have a better handle on how to play games outside of the bubble — to unveil the second half. The Clippers are one of six teams to have 38 games during this stretch; the others all play 37. As a reminder, the Clippers will play each Western Conference team three times and each Eastern Conference team twice.
Here are five things that stand out from the first part of LA’s 2020-21 schedule:
The fun starts early
The Clippers get things going against the Lakers on opening night, when their Staples Center rivals could be receiving their 2019-20 championship rings, though it’s unclear if they’ll wait until fans are allowed in buildings to do so. LA’s next game is a Christmas Day showdown against the Denver Nuggets, who eliminated the Clippers from the playoffs last season. The third game is against the Dallas Mavericks, who gave the Clippers a solid fight in the first round of last year’s postseason. Something tells me Luka Doncic will be amped to see Marcus Morris Sr. on the court again.
That’s three national television games against three contenders at the very beginning of the season. We’ll quickly have an idea what sort of mettle this new iteration of the Clippers has.
Multiple back-to-backs against the same team
As Blake noted, there are four instances of the Clippers playing back-to-backs in the same city against the same opponent. This is part of the league’s effort to reduce travel during the pandemic. This will only happen against Western Conference opponents, because the Clippers only play each East team once at home and once on the road.
Each team in the Northwest Division will play in Los Angeles twice, so Utah and Oklahoma City are each making one trip to play the Clippers two games in a row. The Clippers will travel to play each Southwest team twice, so they are making one visit to Memphis for back-to-back games in February. Furthermore, for the first two months of the schedule, every team that comes to Staples Center is playing both the Clippers and the Lakers.
The Grammy trip lives on
Presumably, the 2021 Grammy Awards will be a virtual ceremony with no one in attendance, but the Clippers are still vacating their building for a week, perhaps out of habit, or perhaps because the performances will be taking place in Staples Center. The team will be taking a six-game road trip, the longest of the first half, to visit Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, New York, Brooklyn, and Cleveland. There are two back-to-backs in that stretch and six total during the first 38 games.
No games against Philadelphia in the first half
The Clippers will have to wait until the second half of the season for a reunion against Doc Rivers, as the team is not scheduled to play the Sixers in the first portion of the schedule. That matchup has taken on increased intrigue in recent days as both Paul George and Morris have thrown some shade at Rivers’ performance as head coach last year. Alas, the long-awaited showdown will be after the All-Star Break.
The other reunion games will also have to wait
The Clippers don’t have games against the Hornets, Pistons, or Raptors in the first part of the season, so Nic Batum, Luke Kennard, and Serge Ibaka won’t face off against their former teams until March at the earliest.
The one Western Conference team that the Clippers don’t play in the first half is Houston, a matchup that unfortunately has lost a lot of its luster without Russell Westbrook and the two Rivers on opposite ends of the court (Austin Rivers signed with New York this offseason). Two games each against the Lakers, Nuggets, and Mavericks all await in part two of the schedule as well.
The Clippers will have finished their meetings against Sacramento, Utah, Brooklyn, Boston, Miami, Cleveland, Washington, and Chicago in the first stretch of the season. Interestingly, the Bulls are one of two teams that the Clippers were winless against in 2019-20, but they’ll get two chances to rectify that early on.
Does anything else stick out from the first part of the schedule? What are you looking forward to in the first three months?