The NBA is back……. sort of. The NBA released the schedule for the 2013-14 season and the Clippers play opening night on Oct 29th. Only 83 days left but who is counting (unless you count the preseason which you shouldn’t)? The Clippers will be looking to repeat as Pacific Division Champs but also have bigger things in their sight like going DEEP in the playoffs. The last time we saw the Clippers they were up 2-0 against the Memphis Grizzlies and then lost the next four which resulted in a first round elimination. The Clippers had a fantastic offseason by bringing in more depth and experience with veterans JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison and Byron Mullens. The biggest acquisition though was bringing in new head coach Doc Rivers, who will bring defense and a championship pedigree to a team that needs both.
In the schemes of things releasing the schedule has no effect except bringing excitement and something to look forward to for NBA fans. Let’s take a look at what seven games from the Clippers schedule jumped out to me the most.
7. November 16th vs. Brooklyn Nets: The Nets had a busy offseason and acquired about half the Celtics roster including Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. This will be the first time since 2004 that Pierce and Doc Rivers will be on opposing benches. Also this will be an emotional game for Rivers but it also is an important test for the Clippers. The Nets & Clippers should be two of the best teams in the league so throwing in the Ex-Celtics drama, this is a circle the calendar game to either attend or watch.
6. November 18th vs. Memphis Grizzlies: The next game following the Nets, the Clippers host the Memphis Grizzlies. These teams play each other 3 times (regular season) but the Clippers will only be hosting once. The Grizzlies and Clippers have played each other the past two postseasons but three times seems only fitting. This is the only chance you have to boo Zach Randolph in person, dont miss this opportunity.
5. April 9th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: One of the last regular season games of the season with potentially home court advantage on the line. The Clippers and Thunder usually make for great games and if you need reminding there is this:
Both teams will be battling with the Spurs for best record in the conference and playoff seeding could be affected by this game. Russell Westbrook vs. Chris Paul is always a great matchup and seeing how Doc Rivers will try to contain Kevin Durant. The Thunder and Clippers could even be a Western Conference Finals matchup. One last underlying story could be the MVP race. Voters could get bored of voting for LeBron James so Paul and Durant seem like the two most likely candidates to take home the award.
4. December 11th @ Boston Celtics: The awkward return for Doc Rivers. The Celtics and Rivers had a publicized break up and this will be the first and only time the Clippers go to Boston in the upcoming season. The question is how the Celtics fans will welcome Doc River. Are they going to cheer or boo the coach that led the team to their only title since the 80’s? The Celtics will be “Riggin for Wiggins” so the game might not be interesting but the part leading up to the game will be entertaining. Rajon Rondo will likely still be out from his ACL tear so the Celtics should be overmatched.
3. December 25th @ Golden State Warriors: Nothing says Christmas like a great slate of NBA games. The Warriors will host the Clippers in the last game of the day. The Warriors are on the rise and they showed it last year by advancing to the 2nd round and taking the Spurs to 6 great games. The Warriors had some great acquisitions of their own, led by signing Andre Iguodala. The Warriors will be the real challengers to the Clippers in the Pacific Division but the Warriors seasons is dependent on one word: health. Steph Curry is a stud but will he able to stay healthy again? The same could be said for David Lee and Andrew Bogut. If healthy, the Warriors could be a top 4 seed in the West. The Warriors gave the Clippers fits last year with the Clippers incapable of closing out on the Warriors shooters. The Clippers coaches were the best close out defenders on threes last year. The Warriors went 3-1 against the Clippers last season but Doc Rivers will scheme better than former coach Vinny Del Negro on how to prevent this happening again.
2. February 5th vs. Miami Heat: To be the best, you have to beat the best. The Miami Heat are the back to back champs and the Clippers consider themselves title contenders. The Clippers and Heat have had great games at Staples the past two years and this one should be no different. LeBron James is someone you will tell your grand-kids about and watching him play in person is even more of a treat. This is the hardest ticket of the year (and most expensive) but it will also be nationally televised. The matchups are great and throw in the history that Doc Rivers has against the big three, this is the second cant miss game of the season. If the Clippers make it to the NBA Finals, they will highly likely be seeing this team on the court with them.
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1. October 29th @Los Angeles Lakers: Opening Night is the most exciting game of the season. The Clippers and Lakers square off for the first of four. The Clippers swept the Lakers last year in the regular season and took over the reign as Pacific Division Champions but ultimately both lost in the first round. Battle LA shouldn’t be as intriguing as last season since the Lakers will have a tough time even making the playoffs with the loss of Dwight Howard but they still have Kobe Bryant. Bryant tore his Achilles on April 12th and there have been rumblings that he will be ready for opening night. Bryant has been “shattering” rehab but 6.5 months seems pretty quick to come back from a torn Achilles but don’t bet against Kobe Bryant. This is a Lakers home game and will have a majority of purple and gold but Clippers fans are increasing in numbers. Thanks to the complete unloyalty which is LA fandom. Everyone hop on the Clippers bandwagon because these two teams are heading in opposite directions and for the first time in history it is the Lakers heading for the lottery while the Clippers have title dreams. Lakers supporters might suggest that one team has 16 championships and one has ZERO but this is 2013, not history class. Also the last banner the Lakers hung up was…..