ROAD-HEAVY SCHEDULE WILL FINALLY EASE UP FOR CLIPPERS
And just like that the Clippers can finally take a breath at sea level.
Their 116-115 loss in Denver Monday was the 11th game in 17 days, a stretch that spanned 10 cities and four time zones. They are back in Los Angeles for a five-game home stand, interrupted only by the All-Star Break, and do not go back on the road until traveling to Memphis on Feb. 21.
It was a needed reprieve from one of the team’s most hectic schedules in recent memory. And that’s saying a lot considering they have spent 14 of the last 15 seasons venturing on the annual Grammy road trip.
“Just getting enough rest, and getting adjusted to the time zone, sometimes you come out sluggish and sometimes you can have your guard let down,” Jared Dudley said. “But I think with this team, we have a bigger goal in mind, so guys come prepared.”
The seven-game Grammy trip was compounded by a home-road back-to-back after a day off when they returned and another home game Saturday against the Jazz before their game in Denver two nights later. The Clippers (34-17) survived it by going 7-4 in the 11 games. While there were certainly games they would want back, a four-point loss in Charlotte and a loss at the buzzer in Denver, they can take some solace in the notion that the schedule finally turns in their favor.
“I didn’t really think this whole thing was over until after the Miami game [Wednesday],” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s the way I looked at it.”
Rivers called it basically an 11-game road trip because they could never quite get comfortable at home before jetting away again. But in many ways, the most difficult part of the travel schedule is past them.
They have played a league-high 28 road games. They have completed 12 of their 17 back-to-backs. They only leave Los Angeles for 12 games through the end of the season. And from Feb. 25 to Mar. 24 they play just three games outside of Staples Center.
The home-heavy schedule could bode well. The Clippers have won seven in a row there heading into their matchup with Miami and are 20-3 overall. Over the final 19 home games, they play eight against teams that as of Tuesday would not make the Playoffs, including dates with Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Cleveland. They also close season with five of their seven games at home in April, including what could be a crucial Wednesday night against the Thunder on Apr. 9.
Fifty-one games into the season, the Clippers are game off of the best record in franchise history. With their two seven-game road trips and this most recent daunting stretch behind them and Chris Paul’s return on the horizon, things may only get easier.
If nothing else, it might at least feel like it.
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