The 2010-2011 NBA schedule has just been released and you can look at the Lakers schedule here courtesy of ESPN. (Here’s a pdf if you prefer a calendar view). And just like last year, I’m going to supply my input on the Lakers record at each stage of the season, and then we all get to see how wrong I am as the season progresses. Last year I predicted 67 wins, which the Lakers came up just a little bit short (ok, a lot short) at 57-25, so take these with a massive helping of salt and skepticism.
Highlights: 10 home, 8 away, 2 back-to-backs, 3-game road trip.
Unlike last year, the Lakers don’t have a torrid home schedule in November. Of the Lakers first 18 games, only 10 are at home, which is much lower considering some of the 21 of 24 and other ridiculousness we’ve had in the past two seasons. However, the beginning of the season still has a lot of pillowy soft teams. For all 18 games in the first two months of the season, only 7 will be against playoff teams from last year, 2 of them against what should be a significantly weaker Suns team due to the departure of Amar’e Stoudemire. The Lakers have two back-to-backs, with the first one coming on home-away on Nov. 2 against Memphis then at Sacramento, the 2nd coming during a 3-game road trip through Milwaukee and Detroit on Nov. 16 and Minnesota 2 days later.
Highlights: 5 home, 10 away, 4 back-to-backs, 7-game road trip
The Lakers start off the month of December with the 2nd-half of a back-to-back, starting on Nov. 30 at Memphis then at Houston the next night. After a lonely Friday contest against Sacramento at home, the team will have a home-away against Washington/@Clippers (or should it be home-home?), then embark on a 6 game road trip (7 if you include the Clippers as “on the road”). The only above .500 team in that group should be Chicago, with the other games coming against New Jersey, Washington, Indiana, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Three of those teams (NJN, WAS, and PHI) are up-and-coming squads with young players who will be more comfortable at home, and 2 of them are teams that are going nowhere (IND and TOR). Throw in the fact that there is a back-to-back @Washington/@Indiana, and this looks to be one of those road trips where the Lakers probably should win, but will almost certainly drop a couple that the will cause immense fan heartache.
And then comes the mammoth that most of the league will be waiting for: Miami coming to Staples Center on Christmas Day. The Lakers have three days off before the game, and two days off afterward, so there will be a long time for us fans to hype up this game and then wallow in its aftermath. We can only hope that Christmas will be more like 2008 (when the Lakers beat the hated Celtics) and less like 2009 (when Lebron James and the Cavs whomped on the Lakers). And what’s worse, the Lakers won’t have much time to relax, because they end the month with one last back-to-back @San Antonio/@New Orleans on Dec. 28, both of which should be tough contests.
Highlights: 10 home, 5 away, 3 back-to-backs.
While December should be a tough month for the Lakers, January looks a friendlier with many more home games. The Lakers do have three back-to-backs, the first against Detroit/@Phoenix on Jan. 4, then Cleveland/@Golden State on Jan. 11, and lastly @Clippers/Oklahoma City (and I thought home-home back-to-backs weren’t allowed…). That last game should be one of the marquee events of the season, when Kevin Durant brings the Thunder back to Staples for what should be a very exciting contest (plus it’s broadcast on TNT, so that means we get Charles Barkley commentary!). The team will end the month with a lot of rest, playing only 3 games in 10 nights. Hopefully this means the team will be rested when they meet the Celtics at the end of the month.
Highlights: 4 home, 9 away, 3 back-to-backs, 7-game road trip.
Ah yes, the Grammy’s Road Trip. Every February, Staples Center gets taken over by the Grammy’s, exiling the Lakers on their longest road trip of the season. While the Lakers have had some big wins during the Grammy’s trip over the past few years, this season’s version will be just as torturous. The road trip starts with New Orleans, then Memphis, then back-to-back against Boston and New York, then back-to-back against Orlando and noted Lakersbane, Charlotte, then Lebron-less Cleveland. Luckily, the Lakers will get the All-Star break to rest (hopefully Kobe, Pau, and Andrew all make the team and then play the first 5 minutes and quit). With no rest for the weary, the Lakers will return to a loving embrace from a back-to-back with Atlanta/@Portland, then a return to the raucous Ford Center against the Thunder.
Highlights: 12 home, 9 away, 3 back-to-backs, 4-game road trip, 7-game home stand
The 2nd week of March brings us what will probably be the toughest portion of the season. It’s a 4-games in 7 days road trip, featuring visits to San Antonio, Atlanta (a much better team at home), Miami, and Dallas. This is the part of the season where everyone is gearing for the playoffs, old teams (like the Lakers) are banged up, and everyone is slowing down due to the wear and tear of the season. That tough week however is followed by the longest home stand I can remember from recent Laker history. Over the next three weeks, the Lakers will play only 7 games, all at home, with no back-to-backs. The games will not be easy, with match-ups against Orlando, Portland, Phoenix, and Dallas, but the Lakers should be well-rested. And if we know anything about this Lakers team, well-rested means lazy, and lazy means dropping games that we expect them to win.
Hopefully the Lakers will put on their focus caps after a couple restful weeks, because they end the season with 3 back-to-backs, Dallas/@Utah (in which it’s always tough to go east on the 2nd night of a back-to-back), then Utah/@Golden State and San Antonio/@Sacramento to end the season. Sprinkle in another meeting with Oklahoma City and trip up to the always hostile Rose Garden against Portland, and you’ve got a very difficult run up to the playoffs. The Lakers stumbled their way into the playoffs last year on a soft schedule; let’s hope the increase in potential playoff opponents will increase their focus.
Overall Prediction: 59-23
Disagree? Let me know in the comments. My predictions are entirely my own, completely unscientific, subjective, and biased.