Breaking Down the Schedule
The release of the NBA schedule is always kind of a mid-summer treat for those starved for news. It gets you thinking about matchups, road trips, tough months, and favorable stretches. And, for those of us who do the travelling, it's a chance to start going over the schedule to check for games on and around holidays, birthdays, ect.
The first thing that leaps off the page on this year's schedule, is the fact that the Trail Blazers don't open the regular season until November 3rd. That's the latest start to a season since 2004-05. Comparing it to last year, we had already played FIVE games by November 3rd, including two sets to back to backs.
The Blazers do open the season at home again. This will be three-straight years of opening at the Rose Garden. However, after that opening game, we'll hit the road for three in a row, at the Clippers, Phoenix, and Denver.
Nate McMillan's teams historically start the season strong, but that'll be a challenge this year, as November is one of the tougher months of the year. Nine of the games on November are road games, as compared to only six at home. There is also a four-game road trip back east, which will take us to Indiana, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Detroit.
There is also a very, very odd two-game road trip at the end of November. Portland will play at Dallas, on November 28th, and then at Atlanta on November 30th. I can not remember any trip, ever, where we've gone across the entire country for just two games, and then turned right around and flew back. That had to be one of those quirky situations for schedule makers, and most likely something that couldn't be avoided. It's very strange.
Things lighten up a bit during the month of December. There are only five road games during that month, and for the first time since the 06-07 season, the Blazers do not play a game on Christmas Day. In fact, we're home on both sides of the holiday, hosting Phoenix on the 23rd, and then hosting the Clippers on the 26th.
The first game of 2012 for the Trail Blazers will be at Oklahoma City, in the middle game of a three-game road trip. January, like November, is full of road games. In fact, there are only five home, and 10 road games in that month. The month also has us taking off on a six-game road trip, which will see us visit San Antonio, Houston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, and Chicago. There's nothing easy about that trip.
February is the lightest month of the schedule, in terms of travel. The Blazers only have a couple of short two-game road trips, and play eight home games during the month. But, the last four road games of the month have us playing at New Orleans, Dallas, Utah, and Denver. The All-Star Break falls between those last two road games. The Blazers play at Utah on the 22nd, and then are off until the 29th, when they'll play at Denver.
You might want to hide your eyes when looking at the month of March. I starting to pack my bags as we speak. Not only is March packed with 17 games (tied for the most in that month in franchise history), it features a brutal seven-game, 13-day trip. We haven't had a trip like that since the 07-08 season, and that was also a seven-game game trip. Last season our longest road trip was four games. That trip will see us visit Minnesota, Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, New York, Orlando, and Miami. We'll have to pack a winter coat for Canada, and then the bathing suit for Florida. That's a little odd.
The good news (other than March ending) is that April is pretty favorable to the Blazers. There will be six home games, and only three road games. In fact, after that monster seven-game trip in March, 11 of Portland's final 16 games are at home. Four of the last five games of the regular season are at the Rose Garden. That stretch goes Houston, Golden State, Dallas, at Sacramento, and Utah to close things out on April 18th. That's also the latest end to a regular season since 06-07.
Each season you end up playing four teams in your conference only three times (everyone else you play four times). The west teams the Blazers only get three times this season are Dallas (one home, two road), the Lakers (one home, two road), Golden State (two home, one road), and New Orleans (two home, one road).
The other major thing we look at when the schedule is released is the number of times you're asked to play on back-to-back nights. We spend a lot of time talking about the difficulty of these situations, even though the Blazers were 13-9 last season on the second night of back to backs. There were 22 back-to-back sets last season, and this schedule shows 18. So, that's a positive.