Regardless of how the Lakers or Clippers finished last season, the events since created plenty of intrigue for early-season matchups in L.A. on the 2015-16 NBA schedule released Wednesday.
The Lakers’ season opener against the Timberwolves features the top two picks in the NBA draft, and the Clippers’ home opener lands the Mavericks and spurned owner Mark Cuban in the same building as DeAndre Jordan.
The Clippers play Dallas twice in the season’s first two weeks, two of their franchise-best 33 nationally televised games next season. The Lakers will be on national TV 28 times, including a Christmas Day home game on ESPN against the Clippers, part of a marquee lineup that includes an NBA Finals rematch between the Cavaliers and Warriors.
The Lakers and Clippers’ four matchups include back-to-back games April 5 and 6, part of a difficult stretch to end the Lakers’ regular season.
One scheduling concession for both teams is the absence of the annual Grammy Awards road trip. Staples Center will host the event during the All-Star break Feb. 11-18.
That is the only solace for the Lakers during an eight-game stretch in February that includes just one home game among two matchups with the Spurs and meetings with 2015 playoff teams — the Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Pelicans and Bucks.
Should the Lakers’ fate include a run at the postseason, the home stretch will be difficult beyond simply keeping Kobe Bryant healthy. Aside from the regular-season finale versus the Jazz, the preceding six-game stretch consists of all playoff teams from a season ago and a back-to-back against the Rockets and Thunder.
Of the Lakers’ 18 pairs of back-to-back games next season, three are packed into an eight-game road trip in early December.
The Clippers’ schedule includes 20 back-to-backs, two of which occur on the toughest road trip of the season. The five-game stretch beginning March 15 consists of games at the Spurs, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans and defending NBA champion Warriors.
March won’t be an easy month for the Clippers thanks to three games against the Thunder, expected to be much improved with a healthy Kevin Durant, and additional games against the Cavaliers, Hawks and three other playoff teams from a season ago. The Clippers don’t have a road trip longer than five games, but their schedule includes four such trips.
After clawing within one win of a Western Conference finals appearance last season, the Clippers were rewarded with four games on ABC and 10 apiece on ESPN and TNT this season.
There will be plenty of intrigue in the first two weeks, during which the Clippers play the Mavericks twice, including a Nov. 11 visit to Dallas where a scored Mavericks fan base will undoubtedly voice its contempt for Jordan after the Clippers center rescinded his commitment to sign with the Mavericks in July.
The Clippers’ Nov. 7 home game against the Rockets marks a Western Conference semifinals rematch. The Rockets became the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 postseason series deficit when they halted what appeared to be a promising playoff run in a stunning end to the Clippers’ season.
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