The NBA has released the entire NBA schedule for the 2014/2015 season. Speculation dropped a few days ago that the Portland Trail Blazers would open the season at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and this proved to be true – sure to be a rousing night in Rip City. The Trail Blazers schedule can be viewed here.
Before diving into the nitty-gritty, it is worth mentioning that the Trail Blazers have 16 games on national television (not including NBATV), putting them tied for 10th most in the league. This is fantastic news for Rip City, as more exposure is always a good thing, especially for such a small market. It is a testament to the marketability of the team’s players– Damian Lillard leading the charge with the Adidas contract, TV commercials, and defining shot of the 2014 playoffs.
While a schedule can be a hum-drum affair, there are always plenty of intricacies to review. Make no mistake, a schedule can and will affect a team’s performance. The TrailBlazers’ opening to the season is about as friendly as it could be – of the first 12 games, nine of them take place at home. Additionally, the three on the road include games against the Kings and the Nuggets, two teams who did not make the playoffs last year.
Those nine games at home are not to be overlooked, though. They include games against the Cavaliers, the Bulls, and the aforementioned Thunder, all three of which are viewed as title contenders. This supposedly easy start comes at a cost, however. During the month-long period from November 23rd to December 23rd, the Trail Blazers will appear in 18 games, with a soul-crushing 13 of them coming on the road.
For the whole season, the Trail Blazers actually have only two five-game road trips, from December 7th to December 13th (part of the aforementioned difficult stretch), and from March 15th to March 21st. This first five-game trip does include a dreaded “four games in five nights,” which is always incredibly draining for a team. By the time that fourth games rolls around, fatigue becomes a huge factor.
As for the single most brutal road trip of the season, look no further than the four-game trip the Trail Blazers embark on from December 19th to December 23rd. Another four games in five nights affair, this trip sees the Trail Blazers visit the Spurs, the Pelicans, the Rockets, and the Thunder, in that order. So yes, this does include the two Western Conference finalists from last year, in their own houses.
March as a whole will be no fun either, as, with the playoffs looming, our dear Trail Blazers have to slog through 16 games, 10 of which take place on the road. If there is a silver lining to be found, it would be that the five-game road trip this month does not include a four games in five nights stretch, and four of those five games come against the Eastern Conference, which was quite weak last season.
Working towards the end of the season, we arrive at what I personally find to be the most worrisome part of the Blazers’ schedule. Of the team’s final four games, three of them come on the road, against the Warriors, the Thunder, and the Mavericks. In a stacked Western Conference, quite literally every win makes a difference, and these games could have an enormous impact on playoff seeding.
If a desirable seed is at stake, or in the worst case scenario even just a playoff berth, I don’t want to have to see my team walking into the Oracle Arena in Oakland or the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City at the end of the season needing a win. Ideally, it won’t come down to these games, but given how tough the conference is, these games will realistically play a large role in how the playoff picture pans out.
In short, the heart of December and all of March will be brutal, the beginning of the season should (should) offer some smooth sailing, only two five-game road trips is fortuitous, and the final four games of the season could be a trap. This is our schedule. There are many like it, but this one is ours.