Ten Tips for the 2018-19 Schedule
Walking You Through the Wine & Gold's Upcoming Campaign
1. The past two years, the Cavaliers have opened their season at home – receiving their Championship rings before taking on the Knicks in 2016-17 and welcoming Kyrie Irving and the Celtics last year. In 2015-16, the Wine & Gold tipped off the campaign with a two-game trip to Chicago and Memphis – and they’ll start the upcoming season with two away from The Q once again.
The Cavs may begin on the road, but one thing is consistent with last year – they’ll be the opponent that gets first crack at the Eastern Conference’s new-look squad, taking on the Raptors at Air Canada Centre in what should be Kawhi Leonard’s Toronto debut. Cleveland has made mincemeat of the Raptors in the postseason over the past three seasons – going 12-2 in those three meetings – but Toronto made some major changes over the offseason, dealing DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio in exchange for arguably the league’s best two-way player (along with former Cavalier, Danny Green).
From Toronto, the Cavs travel to Minnesota for an early-season Western Conference matchup with Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves.
They return home for a pair of winnable meetings – welcoming Trae Young and the rebuilding Hawks to town for the home opener on Sunday, October 21 before Brooklyn rolls in three nights later.
Cleveland closes with a pair at home – wrapping up with Fan Appreciation Night on April 9 against the Hornets.
2. When I was a kid, the minute the schedule came out I’d look for the West Coast trip, knowing that’d be the week I was allowed to stay up late – watching the sporadically televised games or listening to Joe Tait as the Cavaliers traveled to cities I’d only read about.
There’s something cool about the West Coast trip(s) – whether you’re watching back here in Cleveland or on the road with the squad. The East has its share of interesting cities and venues, but there’s nothing like the vibe you get in Portland or Salt Lake City. There’s nothing as tough as the Texas Triangle and no Eastern Conference gyms have a physical homecourt advantage – the way that Denver uses its altitude to run traveling teams to death.
The Cavs make two Western Conference trips this season – one at its regularly-scheduled time and one in a very unique spot on the schedule.
The first comes, as it usually does, right after the holidays – with the Cavaliers embarking on their longest junket of the season, a six-game, 11-day trip that begins on January 9 against the Pelicans in New Orleans – a town where Cleveland has won exactly one contest since 2006. And it just gets tougher from there.
Two nights later, the Cavs travel to Houston (where they’ve piled up five total victories since 1984) to take on Chris Paul, James Harden and the Rockets. From there, it’s the first meeting at STAPLES Center against LeBron James and the Lakers on Sunday night, January 13. Ty Lue’s squad then gets a two-day break – and they’ll need all 48 hours – before wrapping up with a brutal three-games-in-four-nights stretch, closing the trip with stops in Portland (1/16), Utah (1/18) and Denver (1/19).
The Cavaliers then make the latest West Coast trip in recent memory, beginning on March 28 – just 12 days before the close of the regular season – when they travel to San Antonio to tip off a five-game, eight-day sojourn.
They then bounce around a little with a visit to Tinseltown for a Saturday afternoon matchup against the Clippers on the second to last day in March followed by a stop in the desert to square off against No. 1 pick, DeAndre Ayton, and the Phoenix Suns the following Monday.
From there, the Wine & Gold travel to No-Cal – with a back-to-back against the Kings on April 4 followed by a Friday night meeting with the World Champs to wrap up the road portion of the 2018-19 schedule.
3. The good news for those who travel with the team is that this year, the Cavaliers will be home and not playing on Christmas Day. The bad news is that contest is sandwiched in the middle of six road contests bunched into a pair of three-games-in-four-nights packages – at Indy, Charlotte and Toronto before the holiday and at Memphis, Miami and Atlanta immediately afterward.
The night before Thanksgiving is a big evening for many reasons, but this year it takes on a new meaning – as LeBron James will make his eagerly-anticipated Cleveland debut as a member of the L.A. Lakers.
The Cavaliers won’t play on New Year’s Eve this year, but they will enjoy a four-game homestand to start 2019 (before embarking on their 11-day West Coast trip). Also in January, the Cavs will play on Martin Luther King Day – January 21 – taking on Chicago at The Q.
Easter Sunday doesn’t roll around until April 21 this year – almost three weeks after the regular season wraps up. If the Cavaliers are playing on this day this year – it’s been a successful season.
4. A couple years ago, the league made a concerted effort to give players a little more of a break during the grueling 82-game campaign – limiting back-to-backs and three-games-in-four nights. And other than the aforementioned pair of 3-in-4’s bookending the Christmas holiday, the Cavaliers didn’t get loaded up too badly this year.
This season, the Wine & Gold will play 14 back-to-back contests (compared to 13 last year) – right around the league average.
They’ll play three back-to-backs with no travel (after 0 last year), one back-to-back traveling over 750 miles (two last year) and one twin-bill with a time-zone change (three last season).
(Both of the last two are well below the league average this year.)
5. There are some seriously difficult stretches to the 2018-19 schedule and a some spots where the Wine & Gold will have a chance to make hay.
The most brutal individual stretch of games this season begins when LeBron James and the new-look Lakers roll in on Thanksgiving Eve (November 21) and the pressure doesn’t really subside until after the Warriors leave town on December 5.
In between those two dates, the Wine & Gold will take the Sixers the Friday after Thanksgiving in Philly followed by the Rockets at home the next night in Cleveland. They welcome the Timberwolves on Monday then travel to face the Thunder in OKC and Celtics in Boston to wrap up the month. On December 1, the Raptors roll in for their first visit of the season and the Cavs head to Brooklyn before the Champs arrive to tip off a three-game homestand.
The Cavaliers easiest stretch this season comes in February – a month in which they’ll play seven of their 10 games at Quicken Loans Arena. Of those 10 foes, only four are Playoffs teams (Boston, Washington, Indiana and Portland) from a season ago.
At one point, straddling All-Star Weekend, the Cavaliers will be in town for 16 straight days.
6. If you’re circling your schedule for the biggest-name opponents, there are plenty of opportunities all season.
Of course, we’ve highlighted LeBron’s first appearance. But don’t forget about last year’s MVP, James Harden (November 24) or the MVP from two seasons ago – Russell Westbrook (November 7). A player who might start easing his way into this year’s MVP discussion, the Greek Freak – Giannis Antetokounmpo – makes two annual visits with the Bucks, on December 14 and March 20.
The Warriors come to town on December 5, the upstart Celtics visit twice – on February 5 and March 26 – as do Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors – on December 1 and March 11. The up-and-coming Sixers only make one stop at The Q this season – a Sunday afternoon showdown on December 16.
Fans will also get their first look at some of this year’s most-anticipated rookies: Atlanta’s Trae Young (in the home opener, Oct. 21), the top overall pick, Phoenix big man DeAndre Ayton (February 21), the No. 2 overall pick, Sacramento’s Marvin Bagley III (December 7), Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. (November 1), Orlando’s Mo Bamba (March 3), Utah’s Grayson Allen (January 4) and the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic on Groundhog Day – February 2.
7. The Cavaliers have been the Beasts of the East in each of the last four seasons, but they’ll be facing some stiff competition as they try to reach the top of the Conference this year.
And although we’ve already gone over some of these dates, here are some spots where the teams looking to knock Cleveland off their Eastern Conference perch will get their chance.
After taking on Toronto in the season opener on October 17, they’ll face them at home on December 1, travel back to Canada on December 21 and wrap up the season series on March 11 at The Q.
The Cavaliers and Celtics will split their four-game slate in two halves – with Cleveland traveling to Beantown in the first half of the season (on November 30 and January 23) and welcoming Kyrie and Co. to The Q on February 5 and March 26.
Cleveland travels to the City of Brotherly Love to face Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and the Sixers twice – on November 23 and again on March 12, with Philly’s only appearance in Cleveland on December 16.
The Cavaliers travel to face the Southwest Division champion Miami Heat on December 28 and again on March 8 – trying to snap a South Beach losing streak that’s spanned 14 defeats and dates back to January 25, 2010. Eric Spoelstra’s squad makes two visits to Cleveland – tipping off the 2019 calendar year on January 2 and again 23 days later.
8. We’ve already discussed how odd the Cavaliers’ final road trip of the season is – heading West on March 28 and wrapping up on April 5 (in what could be their last ever visit to Oracle Arena).
The first Western Conference team to come to Cleveland is our old friend Mike Malone and his promising young Nuggets – rolling in on November 1 – followed by the sole appearance by Paul George and the Thunder six days later. And of course, later that month, the biggest visit will be LeBron’s pre-Turkey Day stop.
In terms of Western Conference travel – the NBA schedule-makers gave the Wine & Gold a break – splitting the Texas Triangle into three separate trips – @ Houston (1/11), @ Dallas (3/16) and @ San Antonio (3/28).
The last Western Conference squad to visit The Q this season will be DeMar DeRozan and those San Antonio Spurs, who come to town on Sunday, April 7.
The Wine & Gold will log 35,670 miles this upcoming season -- near the league minimum, as usual. The most miles any team will log this upcoming season is 48,277.
9. When LeBron James departed for Tinseltown, one certainty about the upcoming schedule was bound to be the diminishing amount of national TV contests. And with that comes fewer Thursday night games on TNT.
Last season, the Wine & Gold played six Thursday night games at home as compared to just two this upcoming season. Overall, the Cavs will play 18 weekend home games – (eight on Saturday, five on Friday and five on Sunday) – and the rest during the week – (eight Tuesday and Wednesday contests, five on Monday and a pair on Thursday).
Overall it breaks down to Cleveland playing 56 percent of its games on the week days; 44 percent on the weekend.
10. Finally, in the NBA’s wide world of analytics, there’s the “Fresh, Tired & Even Score” when breaking down a squad’s schedule.
This year, the Cavaliers will play 14 games fresh (did not play the day before and opponent did), 11 games tired (played the day before and opponent did not) and 57 games even (both did play or both did not play the day before).
One of the nicest things about traveling from a midwestern city like Cleveland is the lack of travel mileage. The Cavaliers are annually one of the NBA’s lowest in terms of distance traveled and this year is no exception – pilling up a total of 35,670 miles in the air (with this year’s league max being 48,277 miles).