It likely will take some time for this Nets team to get comfortable with one another, and playing a majority of games at home to open the season should help build that chemistry. Brooklyn not only opens the season at home against the Warriors, Kevin Durant’s former team, but they will play host in nine of their first 12 games. They will be tested, though, as their opponents are expected to compete in their respective conferences.
The Nets will play the Celtics in Boston on Christmas Day, three nights after meeting the Warriors, then they’ll get their first back-to-back two nights later against the Hornets and Grizzlies. The matchup with Memphis begins a six-game homestand and a stretch that will see Brooklyn play at home for eight of nine. The one road game in that stretch, at Memphis on Jan. 8, could be an enticing letdown spot, but it’s more likely that Durant does not make the trip as the Nets are back for two more home games after that.
Brooklyn’s first crack at Milwaukee comes at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and that precedes a two-game series in Cleveland, with the second game starting a back-to-back that will end in Miami. The Nets will have some kinks to work out early on, as all newly constructed teams do, but they should be able to find a groove heading into February.
The month of February brings new challenges for Brooklyn, including a West Coast trip. Nine of the Nets’ final 15 games of the first half will be away from home, but they only have three back-to-back spots. The Clippers will visit Brooklyn for the first game of the month, followed by the Raptors. However, three days separate the two games, so the Nets should be in fine form for both opponents when they arrive.
They will then play seven of eight games on the road, including a five-game West Coast trip. Brooklyn goes to Philadelphia first for the second half of a back-to-back after playing Toronto. Safe to say a game against the lowly Pistons two nights later will be of little consequence to the Nets, and bettors can expect a rest day for Durant, at least.
Brooklyn will return home to face Indiana before setting off for the West Coast. The trip starts with an emotional spot: Durant’s return to Golden State. After what is sure to be a draining affair, the Nets will find themselves in Sacramento for the first of a back-to-back that will end in Phoenix. The trip concludes with a three-night stay in Los Angeles, where the Nets will face the Lakers and Clippers.
With plenty of challenging spots, bettors surely will have a few questions answered about this Nets team by the time we reach the season’s midpoint.
Kemba Walker is out with a knee injury and will not be re-evaluated until January, so Boston will have its depth tested early and often in the early part of this schedule. The Celtics open the season with four games against some of Eastern Conference’s best teams. Milwaukee will visit to open the season before Brooklyn stops by two days later on Christmas. The Celtics then will go to Indiana for two games in three days. That makes it four opponents who are projected to win 40 or more games by the Westgate SuperBook to open the season.
Six of the Celtics’ first eight games are on the road, including a four-game trip through three cities: Detroit (two games), Tampa (Toronto’s temporary home) and Miami. The schedule lightens up after that. The Celtics play five of six at home with games against Chicago, Orlando and New York before heading to Philadelphia for a two-game series with the 76ers.
The last four games of January will give the Celtics an opportunity to build up their record before a meeting with the Lakers. Boston will have a home-road back-to-back against Cleveland and Chicago before a trip to San Antonio. If Walker is back in the lineup, the Celtics could be healthy and rolling when the Lakers pay a visit.
The Celtics will take their first trip to the West Coast at the beginning of February, visiting six cities in eight nights. The trek starts with a back-to-back against the Warriors and Kings before a prime-time meeting with the Clippers. Sacramento could be in a good spot in that meeting, catching the Celtics on the second leg of a back-to-back the day before they face the Clippers.
Phoenix and Utah will be the final stops for the Celtics before they start a five-game homestand against the Raptors. The first home game after a long trip is usually a good spot to play against a team, and with a defensive team like the Raptors, it makes it even more of a bet-against situation for the Celtics. Two days later they will host the Nuggets on the front end of a back-to-back with the Hawks coming to town for the first of two games the next night.
Boston will then go on the road for three games against New Orleans, Dallas and Atlanta. The final game against the Hawks wraps up a back-to-back and will be Boston’s sixth game in nine days, making it quite the poor spot for the Celtics. Boston will end the first half at home with four brutal games against the Pacers, Wizards, Clippers and Raptors.
New York Knicks
The Knicks don’t get the most favorable schedule to start the season. They will play a slight majority of their games on the road, but the real issue is they play no more than three consecutive home games until late February. They will be heavy underdogs in their first three games against Indiana, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Even worse, the meetings with the 76ers and Bucks will be a home back-to-back.
New York will head out of town for four games against Cleveland, Toronto, Indiana and Atlanta. None of those games will be back-to-back spots, and with games against the Cavaliers and Hawks, the Knicks could find themselves with a few victories before a three-game homestand against Western Conference teams.
The Knicks will be favored for the first time against Oklahoma City on Jan. 8, but it's a tough spot between home games against Utah and Denver. The game against the Nuggets will be the first of a home-road back-to-back that ends in Charlotte and part of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch that concludes at home against Brooklyn. January ends with six of eight on the road, including a four-game West Coast trip. After a back-to-back against Golden State and Sacramento, the Knicks will go to Portland and Utah before returning home to host the Cavaliers and Clippers.
The schedule improves somewhat for the Knicks in February and March, with the best part being they will not be on the road for more than two games in a row. Still, they will have to deal with four back-to-backs in February, which will lead to some unfavorable spots.
They’ll start the month in Chicago, where they will play two against the Bulls. Their first back-to-back comes three nights later when they host the Trail Blazers and Heat on consecutive nights before a game at Miami. Next is a road matchup with the Wizards before a home date with the Rockets the next night. That’s two back-to-backs and five games in eight nights by the time they meet Houston.
The home game against the Rockets begins an eight-game stretch that will see the Knicks play at home for seven games. That includes a six-game homestand against five Western Conference opponents, but three of those opponents (San Antonio, Minnesota, Sacramento) are projected to win fewer than 30 games. New York wraps up the homestand against Indiana in the front end of a back-to-back that concludes in Detroit.
The 76ers must endure a rigorous schedule in the first month. They have an even distribution of home and road games, but with five back-to-backs and just one homestand of more than two games, they face one of the more difficult slates in the league.
The 76ers will get a chance to start strong, though, as they will host Washington to start the season before a road back-to-back in New York and Cleveland. They will return home for their first big test against the Raptors before hitting the road once more for a one-off in Orlando. The 76ers tip off their lone homestand with a two-game series against the Hornets before the Wizards return for their second meeting of the season.
The 76ers could realistically be sitting on just one loss before their schedule ramps up on Jan. 7 in Brooklyn. Four of their next five opponents — Brooklyn, Denver and Miami twice — are projected to win 44 or more games. On Jan. 11, they’ll be in a tough spot in Atlanta, a game stuck between home games against the Nuggets and Heat, and the front end of a back-to-back.
Bettors should also keep an eye on the 76ers’ Jan. 23 meeting in Detroit. That game is the second leg of a back-to-back, and it follows a two-game series with the Celtics. Playing their third game in four nights after two tough divisional games, the 76ers could be vulnerable.
February sets up slightly better for the Sixers, as they will have just one back-to-back, and it comes at the beginning of the month. They will be in Charlotte for the end of a three-game trip Feb. 3 before they head home to host Portland and Brooklyn. That Hornets game could be a good trap spot for bettors to pounce on.
Three nights after facing the Nets, the 76ers will be in Sacramento to start a four-game Western swing that will take them through Portland, Phoenix and Utah as well. East Coast teams ending extended road trips in Utah or Denver have struggled, so bettors should circle that game with the Jazz as well. The 76ers’ toughest test the rest of the way will be a two-game series with the Raptors in Tampa over the course of three nights.
Philadelphia will get five of its last seven games of the first half at home, and against some lesser competition as well. Houston, Chicago and Cleveland will visit the 76ers, giving them an opportunity to strengthen their record heading into the second half. The slate ends with home games against Indiana and Utah, though, giving the 76ers some stiff competition as well.
A brief reminder that the Raptors will play all of their home games at the beginning of the season in Tampa, Fla. It might be viewed by some as a neutral court, but given the empty arenas all NBA teams will be playing in this season, it should not be viewed as a disadvantage for Toronto.
The Raptors also get a pretty favorable hand when it comes to the first month of the season. They have only two back-to-backs until February, and eight of their last 10 games in January will be in Tampa. Now, with such a home-heavy schedule to end the month, it means they must travel a lot to start the season.
Seven of the Raptors’ first 10 games will be on the road, including a four-game West Coast trip. Bettors should circle the final game of that trip in Portland. That will be the second leg of a back-to-back and the Raptors’ third game in four nights, which is an unfavorable spot for an Eastern Conference team.
Back home, they get a sneaky tough series against the Hornets, but that is the start of a five-game homestand. The last spot to watch will be Jan. 27 at home against the Bucks. Toronto will be playing in its third game in four nights, coming off of a two-game, back-to-back series with the Pacers in Indiana.
The Raptors’ February schedule is absolutely brutal. They will play 17 games, 11 on the road, with nine of those in the first 10 games. They have only three back-to-backs, but all three will end on the road. Toronto begins the month on a six-game road trip, starting in Orlando.
From there, the Raptors face Brooklyn and Atlanta on back-to-back nights before falling into a potential trap against Memphis two nights later. They will wrap up their trip with games against Washington and Boston before returning home for a meaty letdown spot. They have one game in Tampa, hosting Minnesota, before going back on the road for a two-game series in Milwaukee. The Timberwolves will get the Raptors once more five days later, and that will be Toronto’s ninth of 10 games on the road and the second leg of a back-to-back. Think that might be a bet-against spot too?
The Raptors’ schedule lightens up after that with five of seven in Tampa, but two will be against the 76ers as part of a two-game series, with the second being the front of a back-to-back that will end in Miami. The first half will come to an end in Boston, putting a cherry on top of an insane month for the Raptors.
Chicago will get quite the test to start the season. The Bulls have 11 of 20 games on the road and five back-to-backs in January. That includes a brutal stretch that sees them away from home for seven of eight games, four of which will take place out west.
The Bulls do get to start their season with three games at home, including a back-to-back against Indiana and Golden State. They will hit the road two nights later, starting with a two-game series in Washington before a game against Milwaukee, which is the second night of a back-to-back. They have a brief stop back home to host Dallas before setting out on their West Coast trip. The first two games come on back-to-back nights against Portland and Sacramento before they go to Los Angeles, where they will face the Lakers and Clippers.
The Bulls have to deal with a terrible spot back at home two nights later when they have to take on Boston before going back on the road for two more against Oklahoma City and Dallas. They will get four of their last six in January at home, but their opponents include the Rockets, Lakers, Celtics and Trail Blazers, which won’t exactly be a reprieve from their road gauntlet.
February looks less arduous for the Bulls. They have an even split of home and road games and won't be away from home for more than a three-game trip.
The month begins with a two-game series against the Knicks before another two-game series on the road, this one against the Magic on back-to-back nights. The Bulls will be back home Feb. 8 for a quick three-game homestand, in which they will host the Wizards, Pelicans and Clippers.
Chicago has to play three of four on the road from there, and it is a challenging stretch. The Bulls will start in Indiana before going to Charlotte two nights later. They will follow that up with a game in Philadelphia, which is the first of a back-to-back that will end at home against Sacramento.
They will not play consecutive road games for the remainder of the first half, but they do have three consecutive games against opponents who are projected to win 38 or more games — Phoenix, Toronto, Denver. They end the slate in New Orleans against the Pelicans. The Bulls’ schedule is so much lighter in February, but with nine games against Western Conference opponents and meetings with the 76ers and Raptors, this still sets up to be a challenging month.
There is nothing overwhelming about the Cavaliers’ schedule through January, but that does not mean it is free of challenges. Cleveland will play 12 of its first 22 games on the road with only one homestand longer than two games.
The season begins with a home game against Charlotte before a road-home back-to-back against Detroit and Philadelphia. The Cavs will play their third game in four nights at home against New York two nights later before embarking on a five-city, six-game trip. It should not be a particularly taxing trip as they leave the Eastern Time Zone only twice, for trips to Memphis and Milwaukee. The Bucks game, which ends the trip, will be the Cavaliers’ third game in four nights as they have a back-to-back against the Magic and Grizzlies leading up to it.
A night later they are back home for a home back-to-back against Memphis and Utah, making it five games in seven nights by the time they tip against the Jazz. The schedule really takes a turn on Jan. 17 when the Cavaliers play the first leg of a two-game, back-to-back series in Washington. After facing the Wizards, they will have a two-game series against the Nets at home and a road game against the Celtics, which is the front end of a back-to-back that concludes in Cleveland against the Lakers.
The Cavaliers get a majority of their games at home in February, but they must also go west for a five-game trip that spans just eight days. Those home games are no joke either.
Cleveland will host the Timberwolves on the first of the month before having to face the Clippers and Bucks, with Milwaukee coming to town for two consecutive nights. After that they head west, where they will swing through Phoenix, Denver and Portland before a back-to-back against the Clippers and Warriors. That’s eight straight games against opponents with projected win totals of 36.5 or higher. That is a horrifying stretch for the lowest power-rated team in the league.
The Cavs will return home for a four-game homestand, but their first game will be a fade spot as they face the Spurs a night after returning from that grueling West Coast run. The Cavaliers have their final back-to-back of the first half when they host Atlanta and Houston on consecutive nights before hitting the road to meet the 76ers and Rockets in their arenas.
Cleveland is likely going to be the worst team in the NBA this season, so it is very likely they emerge from February with fewer than seven wins after a challenging schedule in the first half.
The Pistons will have some opportunities to win early as they start the season in Minnesota before hosting the Cavaliers in a game they surely will be favored in. However, it gets rough quickly after that.
Two nights after facing Cleveland, they will face Atlanta on the road before hosting seven of their next nine games. The problem is that during those nine games, they will face Boston and Milwaukee a combined five times with Phoenix and Utah stopping in Detroit as well. The stretch includes a brutal home-road back-to-back against the Celtics and Bucks.
The Pistons’ final home game of this stretch, the last of a four-game homestand, is against Washington and is the first leg of a home-road back-to-back that concludes in Miami. That is the first of a two-game series with the Heat before going to Atlanta to end a brief road trip.
By the time they get to Jan. 22, the Pistons will have faced Boston, Milwaukee and Miami a combined seven times, and five other opponents who have projected win totals of 36.5 or higher. It does not get better from there. The Pistons have four of six games at home to end the month, but they will face the 76ers twice, plus the Lakers.
After a home-heavy schedule in January, the Pistons will be on the road for 10 of their 15 games in February. They will play no more than two consecutive home games during this stretch, and it all starts out west.
January ends with a road game against the Warriors, which is the first of a five-game trip against Western Conference opponents. The Pistons have the dreaded road back-to-back in Denver and Utah after their game at Golden State, setting up a great fade spot Feb. 2, when they face the Jazz on the back end playing their third game in four nights. Two nights later they will be in Phoenix for the first leg of another back-to-back that concludes against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
When the Pistons return home, the Nets await and the Pacers will visit two days later. Three nights later, Detroit will be in Boston, facing a seventh consecutive game against an opponent with a projected win total of at least 39.5 wins.
Detroit will return home for the first of a home-road back-to-back against San Antonio and Dallas, the former being the first of a five-game, four-city trip. The schedule does lighten up here, as the Pistons will face five of six opponents with projected win totals of 31.5 or lower.
The Pacers will have a chance to get comfortable and build up their record at the start of the season. Seven of their first nine games and 12 of their first 21 will be at home. Even more beneficial, they will face New York, Chicago and Cleveland four times in their first six games, giving Indiana the opportunity to get off to a hot start.
Mixed into that soft opening slate is a two-game series against Boston at home, but it is a Celtics team that will not have Kemba Walker. The true challenge in January will come Jan. 9, when the Suns visit. Two nights later, the Pacers begin a five-game West Coast trip that will start with a back-to-back at Sacramento and Golden State. They take a swing up to Portland before coming back south for a rough back-to-back against the Suns and Clippers.
They will return home for a four-game homestand in which they will face Dallas and Orlando before a back-to-back home series with Toronto. After that grueling series against one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Pacers have a letdown spot in Charlotte two nights later. It’s the first of two games against the Hornets before Indiana wraps the month up against the 76ers.
After a month is rife with home games against winnable opponents, the Pacers will face 10 of 17 games on the road against the elite of the Eastern Conference. Indiana has a pretty solid letdown spot at the beginning of the month against Memphis. That game comes one night after hosting Philadelphia, and it is the first leg of a home-road back-to-back that will end in Milwaukee the next night.
The Pacers will host New Orleans and Utah before a quick three-game trip that starts with a back-to-back in Brooklyn and Detroit. That Pistons game is another letdown spot for the Pacers as it comes on the second leg of a back-to-back and the night before a game in Atlanta. Three of their next five games will be at home with Chicago, Minnesota and San Antonio among their opponents. It is an opportunity to snag some victories before closing the first half with some quality competition.
They have a four-game trip that starts with a back-to-back in Boston and New York. A night after facing a tough Knicks team, they head to Philadelphia to face the 76ers. Indiana will have to overcome a big letdown spot in Cleveland to close the trip, as it is the first of a road-home back-to-back that concludes with Denver.
Milwaukee will be one of the most active teams in December, playing five games over the first eight days of the season, four on the road. They will start the season in Boston before hosting Golden State two days later on Christmas.
After a game against the Knicks in New York, they face an emotional back-to-back in Miami to close out the month. The Bucks will then return home for a five-game stand they should steamroll through. They will host Chicago, Detroit twice, Utah and Cleveland, with that Cavaliers matchup coming on the back end of a back-to-back. They also have a quick two games on the road against Orlando and Detroit before some quality opponents start to appear on the schedule, but that is a seven-game stretch in which they face six teams with projected win totals of 31.5 or lower.
Milwaukee will meet the Mavericks, Nets and Lakers over the next three games. Two of those games (Dallas and Los Angeles) will be at home, but there’s no question the Bucks could come out of that stretch with some damaged confidence given the quality of those teams. Bettors get a potential fade spot for the Bucks the day after the Lakers game as the Wizards catch them on the end of a back-to-back.
February brings a majority of home games for Milwaukee, and that includes an eight-game homestand that stretches into March. The Bucks will face Portland and Indiana before heading out on a six-game trip that includes four Western Conference opponents.
Milwaukee gets things started with a back-to-back in Clevelands. The Bucks have to be in Denver two nights later for their third game in four days, which could be a tough spot against a top Western Conference team. The trip will conclude with winnable games in Phoenix, Utah and Oklahoma City, but bettors should keep an eye on that Utah game. The Jazz are a very good matchup for the Bucks on paper, and getting them on the end of a western trip is beneficial for the home team.
On Feb. 16, Milwaukee begins that eight-game homestand with a two-game series against Toronto. The final game against the Raptors takes place on the front end of a back-to-back with Oklahoma City coming to town the next day, setting up a potential letdown spot for bettors to pounce on. After games against Sacramento, Minnesota and New Orleans, in which Milwaukee will likely be sizable favorites, they host the Clippers and Nuggets in a pair of potential NBA Finals previews.
With eight of their first 13 games on the road and only one homestand of more than two games in the first month, the Hawks face a challenging start to a season burdened by expectation. Four of their first five games will be on the road, and two of those will be in Brooklyn, where they have a two-game series with the Nets.
Atlanta then gets an opportunity to show the league there is a gap between them and the bottom of the Eastern Conference when they host the Cavaliers and Knicks before a home-and-home matchup with the Hornets over the course of three days. Before a three-game West Coast trip, the Hawks will host the 76ers. Out west, they will face the Suns before a challenging back-to-back against the Jazz and Trail Blazers to end the trip.
That sets up a letdown spot back home against the Timberwolves. Atlanta figures to be pretty poor defensively, and two nights after concluding a western trip is not the best spot to host a Minnesota team that can score at a high level.
The rest of January will include three teams that are 6-1 or better to win the NBA Finals (Bucks, Clippers, Nets), and Atlanta must face two of them — Los Angeles and Brooklyn — on back-to-back nights at home.
The Hawks will get an opportunity to find a groove at home once February hits. They play six of their first seven at home before closing the first half with eight of 10 on the road.
Things tip off with three games in four nights against the Western Conference elite. The Hawks host the Lakers before a home back-to-back against the Mavericks and Jazz. They will get a brief break in the schedule here, as they have just two games over the course of eight days (Toronto, Dallas) before hosting San Antonio and Indiana on back-to-back nights. From this point on, Atlanta does not play consecutive home games until the second half of the season.
After a game in New York, they will play the Celtics in a two-game series in Boston before returning home for a game against Denver. The Hawks will face their third back-to-back of the month, this one a road-home split, in which they will meet Cleveland and Boston.
The first half wraps with four games on the road, including a lookahead spot in Oklahoma City that will predate a two-game series against the Heat in Miami. That final meeting is the first leg of a back-to-back that will conclude in Orlando, the Hawks’ fifth road game in 10 days. It is also worth mentioning that six of the Hawks’ final nine games of the first half will be against opponents with projected win totals of 44.5 or higher, and four of those are on the road.
Charlotte’s January schedule is fascinating. Six of their eight road games come in the form of two-game series, meaning there will be no travel between games. They also have six back-to-backs through the end of January, but they have to change venues for only three of them, making it a much more manageable situation.
The Hornets have winnable games at Cleveland and at home against Oklahoma City to open the season before facing Brooklyn on the second leg of a back-to-back. Five of their next six games are on the road, with two of those coming in Philadelphia as part of a two-game set. Circle their Jan. 9 home meeting with Atlanta. That will be the second leg of a road-home back-to-back, coming off a game with the Pelicans in New Orleans. It will also be their sixth game in nine days, making it an extremely poor spot against a quality opponent.
Two nights later, Charlotte will host New York before yet another back-to-back, this one a home-road spot against the Mavericks and Raptors. After two games in Tampa against the Raptors, the Hornets will play five of seven at home, beginning with Washington and Chicago.
Their final three games in January will take place over four nights with Indiana in town for a two-game series. The latter meeting serves as the front end of a back-to-back with Milwaukee on the last day of the month.
The Hornets’ February schedule gives them an opportunity to build momentum before a West Coast trip to end the month. They’ll play nine of their first 11 games at home, and they do not have to play consecutive road games until Feb. 22.
They will begin the month in Miami before a four-game homestand. There they host Philadelphia and Utah before meeting Portland and Houston on back-to-back nights. The Hornets will get an opportunity to improve their record in their next homestand as they meet Minnesota, San Antonio and Chicago before facing the brutal close to their first-half schedule.
Charlotte will face Western Conference opponents in their final eight games of the first half, including a six-game road trip out west. They will close their homestand with a back-to-back against Denver and Golden State before setting off to visit six cities in 10 days. They will get things started Feb. 22 in Utah against the Jazz before stops at Phoenix and Golden State. The final three games of the trip take place over four days.
Charlotte will be in Sacramento on Feb. 28 before a trip to Portland the next night, and the trip ends with a brutal spot in Minnesota against the Timberwolves.
The Heat play their first back-to-back beginning Dec. 29 when they host Milwaukee on consecutive nights. It is one of five two-game series on their December-January schedule. After their series with the Bucks, they will play their third game in four nights when they head to Dallas to take on the Mavericks. It’s quite the letdown spot, given the opponent Miami will have faced two nights prior.
Two of their next three games will be against Boston, the second coming on the second leg of a road back-to-back that will start in Washington. Those two games are part of a larger four-game trip that spans just three cities, as they have a two-game series in Philadelphia against the 76ers. With four of five coming against Boston and Philadelphia, it is hard to imagine the Heat will be raring to go for two games at home against Detroit.
Miami’s schedule takes a turn two days later when it embarks on a four-game trip that will span just two cities. The Heat first heads to Tampa for a two-game set with the Raptors, the last being the front end of a back-to-back that will end in Brooklyn the next night.
Miami has two games against the Nets over three nights before returning home for yet another back-to-back against the Clippers and Nuggets. You think the home game against the Kings two nights later might be a letdown after that schedule?
The Heat’s three games against Denver, Los Angeles and Sacramento are part of a six-game homestand that bleeds into February. It is also part of a stretch in which they will play seven of eight at home, the last four coming against lesser foes from the Eastern Conference.
They will tip off the month against the Hornets before a two-game series against the Wizards. They have a home-and-home against the Knicks that will start in New York two nights later before they embark on a seven-game road trip against Western Conference opponents. Miami faces Houston and Utah before making the first of two stops in Los Angeles to take on the Clippers.
The Heat’s only back-to-back of the month will be a simple hop from Golden State to Sacramento, and that precedes the final stop in Los Angeles for a date with the Lakers. The big letdown spot likely will be Feb. 22, when they wrap up their trip in Oklahoma City against the Thunder. The final game of a trip is usually a poor setup for a road team, and against a team with a projected win total of 22.5 games, it is unlikely the Heat will be motivated.
Miami’s remaining first-half schedule is not overly challenging. The Heat will host Toronto and Utah over their next two games before a two-game series with the Hawks ends their brief homestand.
With the bottom of the Eastern Conference improved, the Magic will be pressed to get off to a good start, but they just might be able to do it with this schedule. They have just four back-to-backs through January, and they will face eight opponents that have lower projected win totals than they do.
Their first back-to-back will be a two-game series in Washington against the Wizards, making it a favorable spot with no additional travel involved. Sandwiched between two games with Oklahoma City is a meeting with Philadelphia that will be the first of a four-game homestand for Orlando.
The final two games will be a two-game set with the Cavaliers. The Magic likely will be favored in four of five games up to this point, meaning they should have a winning record by the time they head to Texas for a back-to-back in Houston and Dallas.
This is where the schedule turns. After facing the Rockets and Mavericks, they will return home for a meeting with the Bucks before embarking on a six-game trip. Among their opponents will be Boston, Brooklyn and Indiana, but the game to watch will be in New York against the Knicks. That will be a third game in four nights for Orlando, which will have just finished a back-to-back against Boston and Brooklyn.
The Magic gets a real opportunity to do some damage in February and into March. They will play in just 15 games the rest of the first half, and 10 of them will be at home. On top of that, Orlando has to deal with just two back-to-back spots the entire month.
February begins with the second game of a two-game series with Toronto, this one in Orlando. Next is a home back-to-back against Chicago before a four-game trip to the West Coast. The trip will span four cities in six nights, and that will include a back-to-back against Golden State and Sacramento. Considering it’s such a short trip, the Magic likely won’t be caught in a letdown in Phoenix on their final night of the trip.
Orlando will get two days off before tipping off a four-game homestand that begins a stretch of six out of seven games at home. Even more favorable, the Magic will not have another back-to-back the rest of the way, giving them an opportunity in every game to close out the first half.
The Wizards will have the opportunity to win some games with their new dynamic duo in the opening month-plus of play. Ten of their opponents through January have lower projected win totals than theirs (32.5), and six of those games will take place at home.
The first of those opportunities comes early. After opening the season against Philadelphia, the Wizards will be back home for four games against Orlando and Chicago, all of which the Wizards likely will be favored in. They will embark on the first trip of the season the night after wrapping their series with Chicago, getting Minnesota on the road in the second leg of a back-to-back.
The rest of this road schedule really tightens up with matchups against Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Boston. Five of Washington’s next six will be at home, and that includes visits from Miami, Phoenix and Utah. However, Cleveland will also travel to Washington for a two-game set on back-to-back nights, giving the Wizards even more opportunity to add wins.
A five-game trip follows that back-to-back with Cleveland, but yet again the Wizards will venture no farther than the Central Time Zone, and Milwaukee is the only opponent on the trip with a projected win total higher than theirs. Two home games against Atlanta and Brooklyn remain in what could be a favorable month for the Wizards.
A four-game West Coast trip, more road games than home games and a five-game stretch over seven days awaits Washington in the month of February.
A two-game road series with Miami will kickstart the month. After two days off, the Wizards will take on the Bulls in Chicago. They will return home two nights later for a four-game homestand against Toronto, New York, Houston and Denver. The Rockets game is the first of seven straight against Western Conference opponents.
The road trip out west will surely be a challenging one. To start, Washington will make the long trip to Portland. Two nights later the Wizards will be in Los Angeles for a back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers before finishing the trip in Denver. Not only is the final game of an opposite-coast trip a letdown spot, but the Wizards will have to endure that scheduling spot in altitude. Circle it as a bet-against for Washington.
Three of their next four games will be at home, and while they will get to face Minnesota and Memphis in winnable games, they must also make a trip to Boston before wrapping up the first half in a game at home against the Clippers.