2008-09 Schedule Breakdown
With the release of the 2008-09 regular season schedule, Lakers.com takes a closer look at the matchups and breaks the season down game-by-game.
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The season opener pits last year’s Western Conference Champions against a team with one of the brightest futures.
Shrewd moves by the front office vaulted the Lakers to the top of the NBA last season. Up the coast, a plethora of draft day moves have left the Blazers with a solid young core and plenty of flexibility in the future.
While it will undoubtedly be showcased as a matchup between Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden, two promising big men returning from season ending knee injuries, the more intriguing matchup is the conference’s present versus it’s future.
Early Home Cooking
The Lakers will start the first month of the season with eleven of their fifteen games at STAPLES Center.
After a quick back-to-back to start the season the Lakers start spreading the games out, playing only three games in the next twelve days before taking to the road to face the Mavericks and Hornets on the second of nineteen back-to-backs this season. Ten (10) of the back-to-backs take place on the road. None of the other nine doubleheaders see the Lakers don their home yellow jerseys consecutively, but two matchups with the Clippers will allow the team to spend successive nights at home.
Nine games come against teams that made the playoffs last season including home-and-homes with Denver and Dallas along with games against the new look Rockets and division rival Phoenix.
After ending November with a five game home stand, December begins with the Lakers first east coast swing—a three gamer against the Pacers, 76ers and Wizards.
A trip to Sacramento is the Lakers only road contest over the next six games, with Phoenix being the only team in that stretch to have made the playoffs. For Christmas the NBA has stuffed the Lakers’ stockings full of five games in seven days. The cross-country trip starts with a back-to-back with the Heat & Magic followed by an off day before a back-to-back with the Grizzlies & Hornets. The team then returns home of the annual Christmas day showdown, this installment being the much anticipated rematch of last year’s Finals with the Celtics.
The prime-time holiday matchup kicks off another five-game home stand that also features the Warriors, Jazz, Trailblazers and Hornets.
After hosting Indiana and Miami the Lakers take their first two-step of the season, first traveling to Houston then heading west to San Antonio the next evening. Strangely, this same exact two-step will be repeated in the second week in March.
A Friday night tilt with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic finishes the season series with the team from Central Florida and becomes the primer for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
A home back-to-back with the Clippers (technically an away game) and the Wizards follows leads to a rare Friday night off before the Lakers welcome in the San Antonio Spurs for a Sunday afternoon special.
The Bobcats visit marks the end of the Lakers last extended home stand of the season and sets up the annual…
While STAPLES Center plays host to “Music’s Biggest Night”, the Lakers take to the road. It’s an annual occurrence that all fans have come to dread. Anything would look better than last year’s fourteen day, nine-game Grammys trip, but this year’s ten day six-game is no cakewalk. An appropriate term would be “back loaded.”
The trip starts out with visits to the T’Wolves, Grizzlies and Knicks. The team then makes their only trip north of the border to play the Raptors before riding into Boston, for the first time since Game 6 of the 2008 Finals, the next evening.
The trip concludes with a Sunday afternoon contest in Cleveland against the Cavs.
Pau Gasol’s acquisition infused last year’s Grammys trip and carried the Lakers to a 7-2 record. This year’s trip isn’t as long, but the quality of games at the end makes this another rough February journey.
Before heading to Phoenix for All-Star Weekend the Lakers must take care of business at home against Oklahoma City and in Salt Lake City against the Jazz.
The Second Half Begins
Thirty-games remain after the All-Star break, but the Lakers will only have the benefit of thirteen home games down the stretch. On top of that, 22 of the 30 games are against Western Conference opponents.
The first third of the second half features home games with the Hawks, Hornets, Suns, Grizzlies and T’Wolves along with trips to Golden State, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Denver and Phoenix.
A three games in four nights road-trip to Portland, Houston and San Antonio leads to a three-game home stand against Dallas, Philadelphia and Golden State with a day between each contest.
World Figure Skating Championships
STAPLES Center plays host to the World Figure Skating Championships March 23-29, making it unavailable for basketball. This sends the Lakers on their longest road trip of the year, a seven-game swing against mostly Eastern Conference foes.
First overall pick Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls kick off the road trip before the team heads down to Oklahoma City, then back up to Detroit. The Nets follow before an afternoon visit to Atlanta. The trip concludes with a long distance back-to-back against Charlotte on the front end and Milwaukee on the back end.
Only two of the teams (Detroit and Atlanta) on this trip made the playoffs last season, but it’s impossible to know how these teams will look this late in the season.
Luckily this long late March roadie should only be a one-year thing as the Worlds are scheduled for Turin, Italy in 2010.
The Final Seven
If the race in the West is anything like last year, the final seven-games will be crucial in determining the eight-playoff seeds. First up are the Houston Rockets, a team that expects to compete with the Lakers at the top of Conference. This is followed by a home game with the Clippers and a trip to Sacramento.
The final back-to-back of the season brings the Nuggets to LA before a trip to the Rose Garden in Portland, a place the Lakers have played notoriously bad at in recent years.
The season ends with Sunday game with OJ Mayo and the Grizzlies, then the Jazz on Tuesday April 14th.