The Los Angeles Clippers released the first half of their 2021 schedule today, so we finally have details on the next several months of Clipper basketball. Here’s the full slate (click here for printable PDF):
Some key games:
- Dec 22nd @ LAL: The Clippers will open the season on TNT against their cross-town rival and defending champions, on the night the Lakers get their rings from their 2020 NBA Championship.
- Dec 25th @ DEN: After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the second round of the NBA playoffs, the Clippers head to Denver to play the ESPN nightcap on Christmas.
- Dec 27th vs DAL: Is the home opener significant if there are no fans who can buy tickets? Either way, just as LAC will have something to prove in their first two games, the Mavs will come into this one seeking revenge for their first-round elimination.
- Jan 3rd @ PHX: It always feels significant when the Clippers go against Chris Paul, and this will be their first look at his new team. The Suns, led by Devin Booker, went on a furious 8-0 run in the bubble that included a Booker buzzer-beater over the Clippers, but narrowly missed the playoffs. After adding Paul in the off-season, they don’t intend to miss them again–but exactly what tier of playoff team they’ve risen to remains to be seen.
- Jan 6th/8th @ GSW: The season-ending injury to Klay Thompson certainly limits any excitement that the Warriors might be “back” after a miserable, injury-marred year. It remains to be seen just how good their current core will be without Thompson or much depth–but you never want to look away when Steph Curry is on the screen.
- Jan 28th @ MIA: The Heat went on a surprising run to the NBA Finals last season out of the East, sparking a lot of contrasts to the Clippers’ disappointment–including on the topics of organizational culture and Jimmy Butler vs Paul George. While this isn’t an obvious grudge match, it’s a high-profile opponent and LAC could have a bit of a chip on their shoulders this night.
- Feb 2nd @ BKN: I missed having Kevin Durant in the NBA but I didn’t miss the Clippers playing against him. The Nets superteam that was put together at the same time as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard came to the Clippers is finally intact, and this will be LAC’s first meeting with them.
- Feb 28th @ MIL: The Milwaukee Bucks might be the only team in the NBA with as much (or more) pressure on them to perform this season, with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo still capable of entering free agency next summer following multiple disappointing playoff exits. It’s a high-profile regular-season game that both teams desperately hope will turn into an NBA Finals preview.
Some other notes on the schedule:
- Back-to-backs: Always an important component, but particularly so given Kawhi Leonard’s tendency to miss one game of each back-to-back for load management, the Clippers have 6 back-to-backs in this stretch of schedule: Dec 29/30 vs MIN/vs PDX, Jan 5/6 vs SAS/@GSW, Jan 28/29 @MIA/@ORL, Feb 2/3 @BOS/@CLE, Feb 14/15 vs CLE/vs MIA, and Feb 25/26 vs MEM/vs MEM. In a 38-game slate, six is fewer than I wax expecting and means that Leonard should be able to play in as many as 32 games.
- Games/Home/Away: While the NBA has billed this as a “first half” schedule release, the Clippers will play slightly more than half of their games before March 4th–38/72. I’ll be keeping my eye on the total number of games other teams are playing in this span, as this could mean that LAC is getting fewer off days in the first half of the season, but more in the second. The Clippers will play 18 home games and 20 road games in this stretch of schedule, meaning they will have an additional 18 home games and 16 more road games in the back half.
- Road Trips: As part of the NBA’s plan to reduce travel this season to account for the accelerated schedule, the Clippers are one of several coastal teams who figure to have longer road trips. I know, counterintuitive–longer trips to reduce travel. But the idea is that the longer you stay on the East coast, the more games you can play, and the fewer times you have to trek across the country.
The Clippers have two significant road trips in this half of the schedule–a 6-games-in-9-nights trip from January 26th through February 3rd, and a 5-games-in-7-nights trip from February 25th through March 4th. Keep an eye on LAC @ CLE on February 3rd, which will be their 6th road game in 9 nights, on a back-to-back flying from Brooklyn. They’ll be coming off a game vs a high-profile opponent, and likely without Kawhi Leonard on the second night of a back-to-back. It’s a perfect formula for a letdown loss.
- Rematches: Here’s a bit of travel reduction that makes a little more sense: playing the same team twice in a row in the same city. This happens several times on the Clippers’ schedule: they’ve got the Warriors twice in Golden State on January 6th and 8th, the Thunder twice in LA on January 22nd and 24th, the Jazz twice in LA on January 17th and 19th, and the Grizzlies twice in Memphis on February 24th and 25th.
Stay tuned to 213Hoops for in-depth coverage of the Clippers’ schedule and all of the games on it!
213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.