Schedule breakdown: A relatively easy start for Cavs, Warriors
We take a closer look at NBA schedules in October and November
The Golden State Warriors probably aren’t going to win 24 straight games to start the season again. But, as they look to integrate one of the league’s best offensive players into the league’s best offense, it will be difficult for them to get off to a slow start, because their early schedule is not very difficult.
By measure of the cumulative 2015-16 winning percentage of their opponents, the Warriors have the league’s second-easiest schedule in October and November. They will open up at home against the San Antonio Spurs, but then play 10 of their next 16 games against teams that finished with losing records last season, a stretch that includes three of their four games against the Los Angeles Lakers.
That opening-night game against the Spurs is just one of four October or November games the Warriors play against teams that finished in the top 10 in defensive efficiency last season. They’ll play 10 of their first 18 games, meanwhile, against teams that finished in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency. They’ll also play more games against last season’s bottom 10 offenses (seven) than against last season’s top 10 offenses (five).
It’s not just the strength of the opponents that makes the Warriors’ first 18 games relatively easy. They’ll play four back-to-backs in November, but will also play eight games against opponents that are on the second night of a back-to-back. The Brooklyn Nets don’t have that many all season (see below).
The Warriors won’t be at their sharpest in the first few weeks of the season. But even if their offense is a little clunky and there’s some miscommunication on defense, they will get plenty of wins in the early stages, thanks to both their superior talent and a relatively easy schedule.
Here’s a breakdown of the October-November schedules for all 15 teams in the Western Conference…
Some more Western Conference notes from the October-November schedule…
The Dallas Mavericks have a weird stretch in November where they play a back-to-back in L.A. and Oakland, followed by four days off and then road games in New York and Boston.
The Denver Nuggets play six of their first seven games on the road and eight of their first 10 games against teams that had winning records last season.
The Houston Rockets play six more road games (12) than home games (six), the league’s biggest home-road deficit through November. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s defense will come under fire, with nine of their first 17 games against last season’s top 10 offenses.
With Blake Griffin healthy, the LA Clippers should be an elite offense again. And they’ll play a league-low three games against last season’s top 10 defenses in October and November.
The Memphis Grizzlies play only two of their first 10 games against teams that finished with winning records last season.
After opening at home against the Nuggets, the New Orleans Pelicans have a tough stretch of seven games in 12 days, with three back-to-backs and two games against the Warriors.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be the last team to play an opponent that’s on the second night of a back-to-back. The first time will be Nov. 26 against Detroit, but they’ll be on the second night of a back-to-back themselves. Their first game where they’re rested and their opponent isn’t is Dec. 13 in Portland.
The Phoenix Suns have a six-game trip that takes them from coast to coast over 11 days from Nov. 13-23. They start at Golden State, and then go to Denver, Indiana, Philadelphia, Washington and Orlando.
The Sacramento Kings have four back-to-backs in their first 11 games, a stretch that includes a five-games-in-seven-nights trip East that starts on Halloween.
The Utah Jazz have eight games (with three back-to-backs) in the first 12 days of November, including a five-games-in-seven-nights trip East from Nov. 6-12.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a similarly easy start to the 2016-17 schedule as the team they beat in The Finals. Their championship defense begins with 11 of their first 14 games against teams that finished at or above .500 last season, but nine of those 11 games are at home.
In all, the Cavs will play 10 of their first 14 games at Quicken Loans Arena, with only four, one-game road trips to Eastern Conference cities. No team will be sleeping in their own beds before Thanksgiving more than the Cavs.
The champs have a road game in Memphis in mid-December, but they don’t play in the Mountain or Pacific time zone until Jan. 8. They play 34 of their first 35 games in Eastern Conference arenas and 21 of their first 34 at home, where they’re 77-17 (.819) in games (including postseason) that LeBron James has played in over the last two seasons.
More Eastern Conference notes…
The Atlanta Hawks play 12 games in 19 days between Nov. 15 and Dec. 3. Nine of the 12 are on the road, and the three home games are separate one-game homestands, either the first or second game of a back-to-back.
The Boston Celtics begin the season with three games in four days, but should have some practice time in the two weeks after that. Between Oct. 30 and Nov. 8 (10 days), they play just three games.
The Brooklyn Nets play just one game vs. an opponent that’s on the second night of a back-to-back through Nov. 30. But that doesn’t mean they’ll get a lot of those later on. They have a league-low seven games vs. teams on the second night of a back-to-back this season. Every other team has at least 11 and four teams — Boston, Cleveland, Memphis and Miami — have three times as many (21) as the Nets.
The Chicago Bulls play five more road games (11) than home games (six), the East’s biggest home-road deficit through November. They have a five-game, eight-day trip west from Nov. 15-22, and then play in Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving before returning home for nine of their next 12 games. But if they don’t get off to a good start defensively, they can’t blame the schedule. Through Nov. 30, they play a league-low two games against teams that finished in the top 10 in offensive efficiency last season.
Coach Stan Van Gundy is hoping for defensive improvement this season, and the Detroit Pistons’ defense will be tested early as they try to withstand the absence of Reggie Jackson for the first 3-5 weeks of the season. They will play a league-high nine games against last season’s top 10 offenses in October and November (though they play five straight against bottom-10 offenses after opening in Toronto).
The Indiana Pacers play four of their first nine and six of their first 17 games against last season’s four worst teams: Philadelphia, the Lakers, Brooklyn and Phoenix. They also have a stretch in November where they play eight of nine games at home, with some really good teams – Boston, Cleveland, Golden State, Atlanta and the Clippers – coming to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Miami Heat have only one back-to-back before Thanksgiving.
The New York Knicks’ three games against teams that finished below .500 last season are two fewer than any other team has through Nov. 30.
The Philadelphia 76ers play seven more home games (13) than road games (six), the league’s biggest home-road differential through November. But their offense, which has ranked last in the league each of the last three seasons, may get off to another slow start. Nine of their 19 October-November games (including six straight in early November) are against teams that finished in the top 10 in defensive efficiency last season.
The Toronto Raptors will spend most of November on the road. They have a stretch where they play eight of 10 games on the road and includes a road-home back-to-back against the Cavs and Warriors.
JOHN SCHUHMANN | Writer Archive
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.