Analyzing the Clippers' schedule
Here is a breakdown of the Los Angeles Clippers' season schedule.
Five most anticipated games
Jan. 11 vs. Miami Heat -- The Heat's first trip to Los Angeles and the Clippers' only game against the Heat comes early in the season (Game No. 8). Unfortunately for the Clippers, it falls on the second day of a back-to-back after the Clippers play in Portland on Jan. 10.
Jan. 14 vs. Los Angeles Lakers -- The initial "Hallway Series" between the Lakers and Clippers is a Clippers home game on a Saturday night. The game will be sandwiched in between the Clippers' game against the Heat and the Clippers' first back-to-back-to-back of the season.
Feb. 12 at Orlando Magic -- The importance of the game hinges on the future of Dwight Howard, who has been a rumored target of the Lakers and the Clippers this offseason. It is the first game of a six-game, 10-day road trip for the Clippers, their first extended road trip of the season.
March 12 at New Orleans Hornets -- This is another game where the significance hinges on where the star player of the opponent is playing. The Clippers have been talking to the Hornets this offseason about working out a deal to acquire Chris Paul. If they are successful, this would be Paul's first game back in New Orleans. If they are not and Paul remains in New Orleans this season, it might be their last game against the point guard before they try to sign him in the offseason.
April 25 at New York Knicks -- Normally the last game of the season doesn't hold much weight for the Clippers, but if they are in playoff contention, this season finale at Madison Square Garden could determine their seeding. It will also be Blake Griffin's one and only trip to the Big Apple this season.
The Clippers play two dreaded back-to-back-to-backs. The first one is Jan. 16-18 when they play New Jersey at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at 12:30 p.m., travel to Utah to play the Jazz on Tuesday and come back home to play the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. The second one is over a three-game road trip when they play Indiana on March 20, Oklahoma City on March 21 and New Orleans on March 22.
In terms of trips, the Clippers have two six-game, 10-day road trips this season, both in the first half of the season. The first of those trips extends from Feb. 4 to Feb. 12 and sees the Clippers play Washington, Orlando, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Dallas. Their second extended road trip goes from March 1 to March 9 where the Clippers play Sacramento, Phoenix, Houston, Minnesota, New Jersey and San Antonio.
If the Clippers are in playoff contention, the end of the season could also be a factor where the Clippers play 7 of their last 10 games on the road.
Toughest stretch of games
Right in the middle of their season, from March 1 to March 9, the Clippers will play six straight road games, including at the San Antonio Spurs. They'll traverse the country without a single two-day break and play some interesting teams that could look a lot different than last season, like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets.
The teams aren't necessarily the toughest, but, for a team that won only nine road games in 2010-2011, any series away from home is tough. A nice start to the season could be spoiled by an 0-6 performance on this trip.
Easiest stretch of games
The Clippers' first seven games of the season appear to be their easiest, with no back-to-backs, only two road games and two-day breaks on three occasions. They open the season at Golden State on Christmas night, then play the Spurs in San Antonio and come back to Los Angeles for home games against the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers, with an open New Year's Eve night at home in between. After that, they get another full week at home with only two games against the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.
One more road game against the Blazers on Jan. 10 then comes up, concluding the pleasant stretch to start the year. Home games against the Miami Heat and Lakers follow.
The Clippers will play every team in the league at least once but will not play every team at least twice as in past seasons. The Clippers will only play three Eastern Conference teams twice (New Jersey, Atlanta and Washington) and Clippers fans in Los Angeles will miss out on seeing New York, Philadelphia, Indiana, Cleveland, Orlando and Charlotte.
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Pedro Moura is a regular contributor to ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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