12 days ahead of the All-Star break, the NBA has released its Second Half schedule for the 72-game 2020-21 regular season.
Let’s examine the remaining slate for the Los Angeles Lakers (22-10), who currently sit third in the Western Conference and will take a three-game losing skid into their matchup with the red-hot Utah Jazz (25-6) at Vivint Arena on Wednesday.
OK, bad news first
If the Lakers think they’re in a rough patch of their schedule now — with seven matchups against playoff-caliber teams in nine games — it doesn’t seem to get any easier going forward.
As of Feb. 24, L.A.’s second-half slate ranks fifth-hardest in the league, based on opponent win percentage.
On top of the stiff competition, the Lakers won’t get a lot of spare time to recuperate throughout the spring, which they need to prioritize more than anything else ahead of another playoff run.
Beginning with the Indiana Pacers’ visit to Staples Center on Friday, March 12 (NBATV), the Lakers will play 35 games in 66 days. That span includes eight back-to-backs, compared to four B2Bs in the First Half.
Plus, according to Positive Residual’s metrics, the Lakers — for whom the lack of rest has been a steady conversation topic — will have nine games on “rest-disadvantages,” meaning their opponent will enter the contest with fresher legs than the LakeShow.
One reason for the Lakers' challenging schedule moving forward is that they have 9 games with rest disadvantages, meaning they're playing the second of a back-to-back while their opponent is rested. These 9 rest disadvantages are the most in the NBA (alongside OKC and Toronto). pic.twitter.com/CR6euiaS3o
— Positive Residual (@presidual) February 24, 2021
Oh, and here’s L.A.’s slate from Sunday, April 4 through Saturday, April 24:
- 4/4: at Los Angeles Clippers (Easter Sunday, Staples Center, ABC)
- 4/6: at Toronto Raptors (in Tampa)
- 4/8: at Miami Heat (TNT)
- 4/10: at Brooklyn Nets (ABC)
- 4/12: at New York Knicks (ESPN)
- 4/13: at Charlotte Hornets
- 4/15: vs. Boston Celtics (TNT)
- 4/17: vs. Utah Jazz (1:30, ESPN)
- 4/19: vs. Utah Jazz (ESPN)
- 4/22: at Dallas Mavericks (TNT)
- 4/24: at Dallas Mavericks (ABC)
Oof. That’s 11 games in 20 days taking place all across the country, against 11 potential playoff teams of varying quality.
So what’s the good news?
For one thing, the Lakers will get nine days to recharge — and for Kyle Kuzma to enjoy clear water and white sand — in between their final game of the First Half, at the Sacramento Kings on March 3, and the Pacers bout. Some unlucky teams will resume their season two days earlier. (Unfortunately, LeBron James will have to report to Atlanta to take part in a misguided exhibition game on Sunday, March 7.)
Secondly, the Lakers only have three road games in March: at the Golden State Warriors (3/15), Phoenix Suns (3/21), and New Orleans Pelicans (3/23). So, that’s good.
Finally, on an individual basis, stretches like the one above should provide James with a steady stream of opportunities to own the MVP narrative. Certainly, the organization and superstar value the postseason more, but James clearly wants to win his fifth MVP.
LeBron James has his sights set on MVP No.5. @TheSteinLine on why:
"Last year, he was really angry we didn't vote for him. He's clearly made it an emphasis this season… He wants to win it again." pic.twitter.com/KQ4MBT65Cs
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) February 24, 2021
The Lakers will play more nationally televised games than any other team in the league during the Second Half. If you count six NBATV airings, the Lakers will play 21 of their 35 games (60 percent) on national broadcasts, and mostly against the high-profile, star-studded competition. The Lakers also have the most national TV games in the First Half (16), which is understandable considering they still dominate in ratings.
If James excels in the homestretch, with or without Davis, he should command the spotlight and awards momentum.
Here are few other takeaways, with the obvious caveat: COVID-19-related disruptions are likely to occur.
Like in the First Half, L.A.’s longest road spell will be seven games, from April 2–13. However, the first two games will come in California, against the Kings and Clippers.
The Lakers will have 17 home games and 18 road games, including two matchups with the Clippers at Staples (one “home” and one “road”). As with last season, the Lakers currently own a better record on the road (13-3) than at home in 2020-21 (9-7), entering Wednesday.
The Lakers will have two 2021-edition “home-and-home” visits — when they face a team twice in three days — and they come concurrently: vs. Utah (4/17, 4/19) and at Dallas (4/22, 4/24).
If Davis’ four-week recovery timeline proves accurate, he can return for the Lakers’ fourth game of the second half, against the Hornets at Staples Center
Some other notable matchups that haven’t been mentioned above:
- 3/25: vs. Philadelphia 76ers (TNT)
- 3/31: vs. Milwaukee Bucks (ESPN)
- 5/3: vs. Denver Nuggets (ESPN)
- 5/6: at Clippers (Staples Center, TNT)
- 5/7: at Portland Trail Blazers
- 5/9: vs. Suns (NBATV)
- 5/16: vs. Pelicans (regular-season finale)
You can take a gander at the full slate here:
— michael corvo (@_michaelcorvo_) February 24, 2021