If there’s one time of year where it becomes super apparent how obsessed we all are with the NBA, for me it would be mid-August. Sure, I spend less time occupied with the Clippers during this time of year than I do during the season, and definitely less than the 24/7 mania that surrounds the trade deadline, playoffs, and draft/free agency periods. But there’s just something about everyone getting so worked up for the schedule release of all things that really lays bare how starved we are for basketball discussion this time of year, and the fact that it’s always rather anticlimactic demonstrates how large a void we’re trying to fill.

So, yes, the Clippers released their schedule today (along with the rest of the NBA), and, yes, it’s more or less what we knew it was going to be, same as every other year and for every other team: 82 games, 2 against the East teams, 4 against the Pacific division teams, and either 3 or 4 against the other West teams, some tougher stretches, some easier stretches, some tricky back-to-backs (which is a bit of a catch-22: would you rather have two bad teams back-to-back with a chance to get a win on short rest, or put a nightmare game, like @ Milwaukee, on the second night of a back to back and just punt it so that you can play the likely wins at full strength).

The LA Times’ Andrew Greif combed through the schedule to give us some broad strokes:

Honestly, on paper this seems pretty solid. Obviously back-to-backs are typically difficult games and so you’d like to minimize them, but moving away from the hideous 5-in-7s that the Clippers had to play last year is a massive, massive improvement, and at the end of the day taking away those densely packed weeks means adding games to other weeks, which results in the high back-to-back load. No matter how you distribute them, it’s still 82 games in 177 days.

Also notable is the high number of games before the All-Star break, tying the NBA record that the Clippers also tied last season. If you recall, after an especially grueling January the Clippers were able to approach March at a much more leisurely pace, and that appears to be the case this season as well. That can only be a good thing as the team tries to keep itself healthy heading into the playoffs, and loading in a ton of pre-All-Star games could also serve to allow the Clippers to utilize their extreme depth through the first three-fourths of the season, and then make the much-anticipated consolidation trade at the deadline.

Lastly is the 3x teams, which is really one of the only ways in which true strength of schedule comes into play. Ideally, you want to get out of playing good teams a fourth time (you’ll always play your division opponents 4x, so the Clippers are stuck with the Suns and Warriors), but keep all 4 games against the bad teams. The Grizzlies are one of the better teams in the conference, and the Blazers, Pelicans, and Wolves all have playoff hopes too, while the Clippers get to play all four games against the West’s bottomfeeders: Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio (as well as Sacramento and the LA Lakers, who are also locked into 4 matchups due to divisional ties).

Here’s how the team’s schedule breaks down by month:

  • October: 7 games, 2 vs teams from the 2022 playoffs
  • November: 16 games, 7 vs teams from the 2022 playoffs
  • December: 15 games, 7 vs teams from the 2022 playoffs
  • January: 16 games, 12 vs teams from the 2022 playoffs
  • February: 10 games, 8 vs teams from the 2022 playoffs
  • March: 14 games, 8 vs teams from the 2022 playoffs
  • April: 4 games, 2 vs teams from the 2022 playoffs

Looking at last year’s success obviously isn’t a clear predictor of next year’s strength of schedule, as some teams get much better or worse (the Clippers weren’t even a playoff team last year and are one of the title favorites this season due to health), but across the league it helps you see the trends: the Clippers have fewer high-profile opponents in the first three months of the season, and then play almost all good teams in January and February before things reach and equilibrium in the final stretch of the season. On the one hand, this gives the team a chance to build some momentum and potentially even be in first place on New Year’s Day before facing a murderer’s row (January’s first 6 opponents, in order, are Miami, Denver, Minnesota, Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver). On the other hand, the league’s bad teams have a tendency to get more of their wins in the first half of the season before trading role players at the deadline, shutting down key contributors, and fully bottoming out in the second half of the year. You should really go 4-0 against Houston either way, but you’d rather see a couple of those games come in March when a guy like Eric Gordon is more likely to not be suiting up. The Clippers finish their season series against the Rockets on January 15th, and the overall trend skews towards playing the bad teams earlier, before they’ve given up.

Here are some of the notable games for the Clippers:

  • LA Lakers: They play their cross-town rivals on October 20th on TNT (opening night for LAC, but not LAL, who visit the Warriors’ ring ceremony on the 18th), November 9th on ESPN, January 24th on TNT, and April 5th on ESPN. For season ticket holders, November and April are the Clippers home games.
  • Golden State Warriors: The defending champs come to town on February 14th (TNT) and March 15th (ESPN), with the Clippers heading north on November 23rd (ESPN) and March 2nd (TNT).
  • Phoenix Suns: We get rematches of the 2021 Western Conference Finals (hopefully with Kawhi Leonard finally on the court) on October 23rd and December 15th in LA (both NBATV) and February 16th in Phoenix (TNT), with the Clippers also closing their season in Phoenix on April 9th–we’ll see if that game actually matters by that point, if it does it will likely find its way to national television.
  • Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic might be the single biggest source of both fear and trauma for Clippers fans, and he’ll come to LA on November 15th (NBATV) and January 13th (ESPN). The Clippers head to the mile high city on January 5th (TNT) and February 26th (ESPN).
  • Milwaukee Bucks: The Clippers won’t see the 2021 champs and Giannis Antentokounmpo until February, on the 2nd in Milwaukee (TNT) and the 10th in LA.
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Doc Rivers and Ty Lue will face off on December 23rd in Philly and January 17th in Los Angeles (TNT).
  • Boston Celtics: Last season’s Eastern Conference champs come to LA on December 12th (TNT) and the Clippers head to the garden on December 29th (NBATV)
Lucas Hann

Lucas Hann

Lucas has covered the Clippers since 2011, and has been credentialed by the team since 2014. He co-founded 213Hoops with Robert Flom in January 2020.  He is a graduate of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA and St. John's University in Queens, NY.  He earned his MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University.

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