Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Evaluating the Clippers' 2013-14 schedule
By Jovan Buha Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
The NBA announced its official 2013-14 schedule on Tuesday afternoon. Here are the top games to watch and other notable schedule highlights for the Los Angeles Clippers:
Top 5 games to watch
Opening night (Clippers at Lakers, Oct. 29): The Clippers open the season with a "road" game against their purple-and-gold hallway rivals. With the expectations for both teams on opposite spectrums -- the Clippers are title contenders, while the Lakers are projected as a fringe postseason team -- each city matchup gives the Clippers another chance to convert the area's fan base and takeover L.A. Kobe Bryant may also be making his return to the court, adding further intrigue. The Clippers play the Lakers again on Jan. 10 (home), March 6 (road) and April 6 (home).
Playoff revenge (Memphis at Clippers, Nov. 18): While the Clippers and Lakers are rivals mainly because of their proximity, the Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies have formed a rivalry the authentic way, through grueling playoff battles. The game marks the first matchup between the two squads since the Grizzlies eliminated the Clippers in Game 6 of the first round of the 2013 playoffs. That game featured five technical fouls and one flagrant foul, and this one shouldn’t be any different. The Grizzlies play the Clippers in L.A. only once next season.
Doc's homecoming (Clippers at Boston, Dec. 11): The Clippers' schedule is loaded with important and intriguing games, but this particular date stands out above the rest. For the first time in nearly a decade, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers will sit on the visitor's sideline in T.D. Bank Garden, facing a torn-down squad that only resembles his 2008 championship team in colors (green and white) and name (the Celtics). The game itself isn't likely to be close, but the emotion will be as intense as any point this season.
Christmas Day (Clippers at Golden State, Dec. 25): The primary threat to the Clippers' perch atop the Pacific Division is the revamped Golden State Warriors, who now have arguably the deepest crop of wings in the league with the addition of Andre Iguodala. It's no secret the Clippers had trouble defending the Warriors' 3-point shooting last season (Golden State won the season series 3-1), and the Clippers will be eager to show a national audience their struggles were a fluke. This is also the third consecutive season the Clippers will play on Christmas, including the second time that they have faced the Warriors.
Battle for the West (Oklahoma City at Clippers, April 9): By this point in the season, the playoff seeds will have begun to materialize, and the legitimacy of the Clippers' championship aspirations will be clear. Their greatest challenge figures to be the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Western Conference darlings hungry to prove they can still win a championship. The Clippers purposely re-signed Matt Barnes and traded for Jared Dudley to defend scoring superstar Kevin Durant, and that plan will be put to the test in this potential Western Conference finals preview.
Other important notes about the schedule:
The Clippers play 29 games on national television, including nine on ESPN, two on ABC, 10 on TNT and eight on NBATV. The rest of their games will be on Prime Ticket.
The Clippers have 17 sets of back-to-back games, including 10 on the road. Last season they had 20 back-to-backs.
The easiest stretch of the season: The Clippers play five of their seven games in April at home, including its only game against a surefire playoff lock (their final game against the Thunder).
The most difficult stretch of the season: The Clippers face the Spurs at home (Feb. 18), then travel to play the Grizzlies (Feb. 21) and Thunder (Feb. 23) on the road right after the All-Star break.
Additional holidays that the Clippers play on include Halloween (home opener vs. Golden State), New Year's Day (vs. Charlotte), Martin Luther King Jr. Day (at Detroit), and St. Patrick's Day (at Denver).
Other notable games: Houston at Clippers, Nov. 4; Clippers at Heat, Nov. 7; Brooklyn at Clippers, Nov. 16; Chicago at Clippers, Nov. 24; New York at Clippers, Nov. 27; Indiana at Clippers, Dec. 1; San Antonio at Clippers, Dec. 16; Clippers at Portland, April 16 (final game of the regular season).