Much of a team’s record during any given NBA season can be attributed to the players, coaches and trainers. But because the difference between a lottery pick and a great playoff seed has been just a few games over the past few seasons, some of the credit (or blame) for where a team ends up in the standings could probably go to a team’s schedule as well. If a team gets a long stint at home toward the end of a season when the players are tired, or has an especially long road trip at the very beginning of the season, it could help or hurt them.
For instance, the 2012-13 Suns have 19 home stands during the season – including the first one of the season against Golden State (October 31) and Detroit (November 2). However, five of this season’s home stands are just one game. The team will get back from a road trip, play one game at home and then leave on another road trip. There are also 10 times that the Suns play a game at home, head out on the road for one game and then come home again.
The team’s longest road trip starts at the end of November for six games, where they visit Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, New York and Memphis. On the other hand, Phoenix’s longest home stand is five games in mid-December. They’ll welcome Orlando, Memphis, Utah, Sacramento and Charlotte before heading back out on the road to face Portland and then travel back home for games against the Clippers and Knicks. But Suns fans should count themselves lucky. The Clippers get an eight-game road trip in February while the Lakers have a seven-game trip at the same time.
This year the Suns play a total of 19 back-to-backs, including one where the team plays the Lakers in LA on November 16 and then flies home to prepare to play Miami on November 17. The team plays Miami, Dallas and Golden State twice each in the second half of the back-to-backs. While it may seem like the team could have a tough time playing 25% of their games on the back end of a back-to-back, fans can again look to the Clippers to feel better. They have 21 back-to-backs including three times playing four games in five nights. The Lakers, on the other hand, only have 15 back-to-backs with just one time playing four games in five nights.
There is one “home-and-home” series with Oklahoma City on February 8 and 10.
The hardest point of the season may be in January when the Suns play 10 games in 20 nights, including two stints of four games in five nights. If home is where the heart is, March should be the most welcome month for Phoenix as they play two-thirds of their games at home, including six out of seven games at home to end the month.
Overall, the Suns pulled a pretty good schedule that should help them more than it hinders them this season. They have a long road trip a month into the season, which could help the guys who are still getting to know each other spend some time together. And they have a great March schedule with the majority of their games at home just as the team is getting tired from a long season. And April could prove to be exciting. Just as teams are jockeying for last-minute playoff seeding, Phoenix plays all eight of their April games against Western Conference teams.
What do you think about the schedule? Have you noticed any trends in the schedule that could help or hurt the team?