The NBA released it’s 2012-13 schedule on Thursday and, much like in previous seasons, the Lakers have an extremely home-friendly schedule to both start and finish the season. For starters, only five of their first 17 games are on the road. I can’t imagine a better scenario for a team with a new starting quarterback.
Things are just as peachy in April. Only one of the Lakers final nine games of the season is outside the state of California and even that game is just a two-hour and fifteen-minute flight to Portland.
December and February look to be the most challenging months of the season with nine of their 14 on the road in December and eight of their 13 on the road in February.
Taking all of that into account, how do I think the Lakers will do?
Let’s break it down month-by-month, shall we?
While the schedule is home-friendly early on, that doesn’t mean the opponents are all pushovers. Opponents include the new-look Mavericks, the Clippers, Spurs, Pacers, and Nuggets. The five road games are against Portland, Utah, Sacramento, Memphis, and Dallas.
Even though December starts with a home game against Orlando, it’s followed by seven of eight on the road — including stops in Oklahoma City, New York, and Philadelphia (who always seem to play the Lakers tough at home). The good news in December is out of their 14 games, there are only three back-to-backs — road ones against the Rockets and Hornets and then the Knicks and Wizards, and a home/road back-to-back against the Knicks in L.A. followed by the Nuggets in Denver (the worst place to play on the second night of a B2B).
January has the Lakers playing 16 games in 30 days, including a stretch of four games in six days to end the month. The Lakers play three back-to-backs in January, the first of which is a Texas two-step to Houston and San Antonio, followed by a home game against Oklahoma City two days later. They then return to Staples for four straight, including one against the World Champion Miami Heat, before heading back on the road for a back-to-back in Toronto and Chicago. The month ends with another home game against Oklahoma City and home/road back-to-back against the Hornets at Staples followed by a road affair in Phoenix — a game that promises to be an emotional one for Stephen John Nash.
That game against Phoenix to end the January schedule is the first of a 7-game road trip that might be the most brutal stretch of the season. After the Suns game, the Lakers travel to Minnesota, Detroit, Brooklyn, Boston, Charlotte, and finally Miami. The good news? Only one back-to-back in that stretch — Boston and Charlotte.
I wish I could say that was it for their road schedule in February, but it isn’t. February 24 and 25 has them playing another difficult back-to-back on the road against the Mavericks and Nuggets. Why does it feel like every year, every game they play in either Denver or in Portland is on the second night of a back-to-back?
Of their four home games in February, two are against the Clippers and Celtics.
March sees the Lakers playing 10 of 15 games on the road and four back-to-backs, three of which are road/road — Oklahoma City and New Orleans, Orlando and Atlanta, and Minnesota and Milwaukee. The fourth back-to-back is a home/road against Sacramento in L.A. followed by Nash’s second trip to Phoenix the next night.
The good news is that only four of those 10 road games are against teams that made the playoffs last season and one of those, Orlando, might be trying tank the season. The bad news is the other three road games are against Oklahoma City, Atlanta, and Indiana.
Only eight games on the schedule in April and seven of them are Staples. Unfortunately, the lone game outside of L.A. is in Portland on the second night of a back-to-back. But it’s also their only back-to-back. I say they lose that game in Portland but win every other game in April, including a road game against the Clippers and home games against Dallas, Memphis, and San Antonio.
Final tally: 61-21