In some ways, the 2011-12 schedule for the Los Angeles Lakers is like a trip to the dentist. There's pain, yes, but the anticipation was probably worse than the actual procedure. Here's how the schedule breaks down, home and road over the course of the 2011-12 season:
DECEMBER: Home 4, Road 1
JANUARY: Home 9, Road 8
FEBRUARY: Home 4, Road 9
MARCH: Home 9, Road 8
APRIL: Home 7, Road 7
A few of the normal caveats apply. The Lakers gain what from what amounts to two additional non-travel dates, thanks to a pair of "road" games against the Clippers. Because of the Grammy's, the Lakers always travel heavy in February, so this season's schedule is no different. Still, when you start to break things down, the challenge faced by the Lakers (and all teams across the league) with the schedule crystallize.
The Lakers have one back-to-back-to-back, and 17 of more conventional back-to-backs. Of those, only one set (March 1 vs. New Orleans, April 1 vs. Houston) includes true home games. Two more contain faux roadies against the Clips, six are split, and eight take place entirely on the road. Certainly some tough stretches stick out, namely:
The Grammy trip (Feb. 3-12) is six games long, starting with a back-to-back at Denver and Utah, two tough places to play thanks to the home crowd and altitude. Later that trip, they get the Celtics and Knicks on consecutive nights.
After returning home for three of four, the Lakers finish their road schedule for February with back-to-back games in Dallas and Oklahoma City.
On the other hand, given how bad things could have been, in many ways the Lakers come out of this relatively well. First, by definition playing only eight games on the road against Eastern Conference teams limits the number of long trips. Second, the Lakers get their lone back-to-back-to back out of the way early, in the first three days of the season. Only one, Christmas against Chicago, is against an expected playoff team.
They play 11 of their first 15 games in Los Angeles, allowing them to maximize valuable practice time as they try to absorb new offensive and defensive systems under Mike Brown. Generally speaking, save a swing through Florida on Jan. 19 and 20 (at Miami, at Orlando) and the aforementioned trip through Dallas and Oklahoma City, the Lakers avoid B2B's against playoff-caliber squads, particularly on the road. During one stretch of five games in six days on the road between March 6-14, separated by a home date against Boston, they'll see only one high end team (Memphis) and four potential lottery squads (Detroit, Washington, Minnesota, New Orleans). Hard to expect anything softer.
Finally, in what are likely to be key games for seeding purposes in April, the Lakers host Dallas and Oklahoma City.
So again, it's not easy, but it could be worse.
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