- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Los Angeles Clippers enjoyed their most successful season ever in Lob City’s debut run and were rewarded when their 2012-13 schedule came out Thursday with 30 national television games. That’s eight more than their previous high and, ahem, one more than the team that dresses down the hall. Here’s a closer look at some key games and stretches in the Clippers’ schedule.
Top 5 most anticipated games
1. Los Angeles Lakers (Nov. 2)
The Clippers went 1-2 against the Lakers last season and Nov. 2 will mark the first time the two teams will meet each other in the regular season since April 4. The Lakers finished one game better than the Clippers in the standings last season, still leaving the star-crossed franchise searching for its first division title. While the Lakers stole most of the offseason headlines by acquiring Steve Nash, the Clippers think they quietly added the pieces (Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill) to become the team to beat in Los Angeles. The first of their four matchups at Staples Center this season could go a long way in determining who will have local bragging rights at the end of the season.
2. Memphis Grizzlies (Oct. 31)
When the Clippers last met the Grizzlies. they won the franchise’s first-ever Game 7 -- on the road, no less -- to win a playoff series for only the second time since 1976. When the two teams meet on Halloween night to open the regular season it will be a rematch of what was perhaps the most entertaining first-round series of the NBA playoffs last season. The Clippers’ “Miracle in Memphis” in Game 1 of that series, when they came back from 24 points down with 7:55 left, was perhaps the biggest win in franchise history and the moment in which “Lob City” grew up. How much the Clippers have grown up since then will be on display opening night.
3. San Antonio Spurs (Nov. 7)
As successful as last season was for the Clippers in many ways, the way it ended left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. After a beating the Grizzlies in dramatic fashion, the Clippers were subsequently swept by the Spurs and looked completely outmatched and outcoached in the process. Their first meeting of the season will be Nov. 7 at Staples Center, where the Spurs finished the Clippers last season. A regular-season win in November will not erase getting swept in the playoffs, but it might show much the Clippers have grown since last season if they are successful.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (Nov. 21)
As much as everyone would like to call Oklahoma City the class of the West, the Clippers actually beat the Thunder in three of their four meetings last season, including a couple of blowouts at Staples Center. Had the Clippers drawn Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs instead of San Antonio, they would probably have given them a better series than the Lakers and had a chance to advance to the conference finals. The teams meet for the first time this season on Nov. 21 in Oklahoma City. If the Clippers can once again show they are a matchup problem for the Thunder, it could be time to reassess the balance of power out West.
5. Miami Heat (Nov. 14)
Due to last season’s condensed schedule, the Clippers and Heat met only once last season, but the Clippers won that game, 95-89, in overtime. At the time some players called it a turning point in the growth of the team, as they also beat the Lakers and the Mavericks that week. The two teams meet again for the first time since January on Nov. 14 when the Heat come to town. Both teams will already be familiar with each other after facing off in two preseason games in China but an early-season win over the defending champions could help spring the Clippers to a strong start like it did last season.
The Clippers’ dreaded “Grammy Trip” this season will run from Jan. 30 to Feb. 11. During that stretch the Clippers will play eight games in 13 days spanning six states and two countries. The trip includes a back-to-back against Boston and Washington and another one against New York and Philadelphia.
The Clippers won’t have to leave home much to begin the month of March. From March 3 to 23, the Clippers have only two road games (Denver and Sacramento) and only one requires them to leave the state. During that stretch the Clippers play seven home games, with two of them being Sunday afternoon ABC games against the Thunder (March 3) and the Knicks (March 17).
12hArash Markazi and Ben Alamar
8dESPN Stats & Information