Rockets Schedule Analysis

Dwight laughs at your scheduling - Bob Levey

A look at the Rockets 2013-2014 schedule, what to watch, and a record prediction.

The NBA Schedule released on Tuesday, August 6, and there is much to rejoice about, Rockets fans. The good guys will be televised nationally twenty-six times (6 of those won't be seen in Houston if current Comcast struggles). TNT has rights to 9 games, the worldwide leader in spin has 10 of the games, and ABC will broadcast one of those games. Let's jump in and check a few of the quirks and perks of the Rockets 2013-2014 Western Conference Championship run.

AlDe2356 already posted a schedule analysis that can't really be topped in the open thread so what I figured I'd do was I would give you his analysis (condensed) and a bit of commentary on some specific situations.

The Big Picture

Houston has:

-       20 back-to-back games (Tied with 6 teams for 4th most in the NBA)

-       The 2nd most back-to-back games on the road (Celtics and Sacramento tied)

-       Tied for 4th most 3 games in 4 nights

-       Tied for third fewest games with 3 or more days rest

-       Tied for first in games with 2 days rest

-       2nd fewest games with 1 day rest

-       5th in games with opponents coming off 1 day of rest

-       4th in opponents with 2 days of rest

-       5th in fewest games against teams with 3 days rest

Again, thanks to AlDe2356 (via nbastuffer.com) for posting this and offering a good discussion point here. At first blush on the negatives against the Rockets implies they are getting the spurs put to them by the NBA again. Then you delve behind the positives and see that it's actually pretty fairly balanced. The Rockets are coming in to the season regarded as an NBA title competitor and if we're going to embrace then Rockets fans also need to acknowledge that there is no longer such a thing as getting screwed on a back to back. Teams like the Thunder and the Heat don't have the luxury of crying about back to backs, packed schedules, and tough finishes to back to back. The reason for that is simple: They're expected to win and to be the last men standing at the end of a rigorous NBA season. If Houston is joining that conversation then the excuses need to stop and this season becomes the proving ground. It's no longer fair versus unfair, it's put up versus shut up.

By the month.

The season opens at home against Charlotte in what AK2themax has aptly pointed out was clearly the scheduling genius of NBA brass. Reggie Williams against his prior team is a storyline rife with struggle and angst. The Rockets move into November and continue to ease into the season after such a kick off. It takes Houston roughly one week into the season to play against a team with any actual post-season hopes that you could describe as more than aspiration (The Clippers). On the month they play six teams that figure to contend for post-season spots (LAC x 2, NYK, MEM, BKN, SAS) in the top of their conference and one of two of those teams are the Knicks and Nets. The Rockets face the Clippers on the 4th then take off to Portland for a game on the 5th marking their first back to back of the season and it finishes soft. Portland may be in the conversation for a late seed in the NBA playoffs but for all intents and purposes compared to Houston's roster and success last season it's not a huge challenge. Overall the month sees four back-to-backs that entail heading the aforementioned Portland game, a game in New York, a game in Dallas (Off a game at home), and a game in San Antonio (Off a game at home). Only the Spurs game really stands out as a difficult finish but it will test the Rockets' meddle early in the season to see how they can finish after a game at home against the Brooklyn Nets only to head up the highway to take on the reigning Western Conference Champions.

Projection: 14-4 (Included a perfect October record of 1-0)

December ratchets the pressure up with seven games against serious playoff contenders (GSW x 2, CHI, IND, SAS, MEM, OKC).  The back-to-backs remains steady with four. Their first back to back includes a trip down the West Coast after Portland to take on the Golden State Warriors (Admittedly I'm not a believer in the Warriors but this should test the team's endurance and basketball philosophy, more about that later). About a week later the Rockets take on an Eastern Conference back-to-back that lobs a softball at the team where they'll play the Pistons after enduring the Pacers. Perhaps the most brutal back-to-back the Rockets can deal with comes up this month (And even then, there's a silver lining). The Rockets will tackle the Spurs on night one then head back to the Toyota Center to host the Memphis Grizzlies. Two days later the Rockets take on the Hornets at home to high-tail it out to Oklahoma City to play the only other team besides the Oklahoma City Thunder. All in all December is a month that begins to expect something of the Rockets.

Projection:  25-9 (11-5 on the month)

The New Year sees the Rockets get a break off the inevitable hangover of Auld Lang Syne with their first game on the 3rd. On the month they play only 5 teams considered locks for the post-season (NYK, OKC, MEM x 2, SAS). The Rockets only have to deal with three back-to-backs on the month.  Those back to backs are OKC at home after the Hornets (away), a home and away against Memphis, and the Mavericks after hosting San Antonio. January looks to be a month where the Rockets can pick up quite a bit of wins. The NBA Schedulers tossed the likes of Bucks, Hornets, Celtics, and and Mavericks at the Rockets on the month that should help provide some momentum wins. My calendar is personally circled for January 11 (Houston comes to DC) to watch the Rockets in action again and hopefully they win (Since they couldn't do that for me last time).

Projection: 35-13 (10-4 on the month)

February will mark the All-Star break. Most are predicting that the Rockets will trade Asik away at this point in the season and I'm not going to argue it. I'd like him to stay and all reports claim Howard and Harden want him but this is a schedule topic. I bring that up merely to say for this write-up I'm assuming no moves. February is the easiest month the Rockets will see. It's also the shortest month in the year. Either way they play two teams that are post-season locks and have only one back-to-back on the month. The throw-away here is that the Rockets get a week off during the month (12-19th, the All-Star Break where you'll see 2-3 Rockets on the team). The only back-to-back starts at Sleep Train Arena (Aptly named for the usual intensity level of Kings games) and finishes at Staples Center against the Clippers. Besides that Houston sees Phoenix twice, Cleveland, Washington, Sacramento, and Milwaukee for most of their games this month. Nice breather to kick off the second half of the season.

Projection: 42-16 (7-3 on the month)

March sees the competition step it up. You have to pay the piper sometime and off of February the Rockets will deserve it. Early in the month Houston sees the Miami Heat come to town and then pays a return visit halfway through the month. The Rockets see only two back-to-back games this month, which is a nice trade off to playing six playoff locks and four title contenders (In all: MIA x 2, IND, OKC, CHI, LAC). Houston's back-to-backs see the squad take on the Heat at home then jump across the gulf to Orlando for a game. Later they wrap up their test against the Heat to fly across the Gulf and play Utah at home. It's all about symmetry, people. It's a home-heavy schedule (8 at home, 6 away) but it's a challenging schedule for the competition they'll see. March will be a proving ground for the Rockets and it's one that may shake some fan confidence with the likelihood of a skid off some of the competition they're facing.

Projection: 49-23 (7-7 on the month)

The season ends for the Rockets against three playoff locks (BKN, OKC, SAS) and two back-to-backs on a short schedule month. The back-to-backs see Houston take on the Lakers in LA then head to Colorado to take on the Nuggets. Later they head south from the tundra lovingly known as Minnesota to take on the Hornets at home. We're not entirely sure what the impact that thawing out will have on the Rockets but it's a pretty soft finish for back to backs. This month could see the starters resting depending on whether or not projections are accurate but this isn't a particularly harsh month. Late in the season Denver and Minnesota figure to still be challenging for a late playoff spot and could certainly stick it to the Rockets late.

Projection: 55-27 (6-4 on the month)

Games to watch

If you're looking to circle your calendars for games to watch then the following should provide a real quick guide for games that are an absolute cannot miss and why:

Date

Opponent

Location

Reason

Oct. 30

Charlotte

Houston, TX

Home opener, duh.

Nov. 4

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles, CA

First test against a real contender in the West

Nov. 7

Los Angeles Lakers

Houston, TX

They mad? You know this will be fun to watch.

Nov. 14

New York Knicks

New York, NY

A feel-good game really, the Rockets tend to destroy the Knicks

Nov. 30

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio, TX

The first game against the Western Conference champs, how do the Rockets stack up?

Dec. 6

Golden State Warriors

Houston, TX

Are the new-look Warriors real? How do they stack up against the new era Rockets?

Dec. 20

Indiana Pacers

Indianapolis, IN

Luis Scola's got a chance to compete for a ring, can the Rockets let him know they'll be in the way if he makes it?

Dec. 25

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio, TX

Christmas Day game, duh.

Dec. 29

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City, OK

First round playoff re-match and a test against the other Western Conference champ contender

Jan. 11

Washington Wizards

Washington, DC

This one's for me, I don't care

Jan. 25

Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis, TN

How do the Rockets fair against a big challenge off a home-and-away back-to-back?

Mar. 4

Miami Heat

Houston, TX

How does home-court impact playing NBA title favorites? Can Houston justify some title talk?

Mar. 13

Chicago Bulls

Chicago, IL

Houston faces the other Eastern Conference favorite, how can they handle D-Rose?

Mar. 16

Miami Heat

Miami, FL

Can the Rockets stick it to the champs on their court?

Apr. 4

Oklahoma City Thunder

Houston, TX

Late season grind against the Thunder, check the pulse of the team heading for the post-season

Apr. 11

Minnesota Timberwolves

Minneapolis, MN

Rick Adelman leads his wolves in a late-season push for the playoffs (possibly) with Kevin Martin at his SG in a clutch time

Apr. 14

San Antonio Spurs

Houston, TX

The Spurs and the Rockets late season? Possible WCF preview? The story line writes itself.

The season is sure to be a fantastic one and one with a lot of great story lines. Houston should be looking at a top 5 finish in the Western Conference and this season will be a fantastic proving ground. There a lot of must-watch games that will provide Rockets fans with reactions from proudly proclaiming "WE TITLE NOW!" to "We're such phonies!" How will the power-forward situation effect the odds this team can get to greatness? Is Asik with us all season? Can Jeremy Lin establish enough consistency to see this team to greatness?

Sound off in the comments about what you think the must-watch games are, what the Rockets record will be, and what you're most looking forward to seeing this year. As always, tweet mean things to me @QuestionablyBD, have fun in the comments, or e-mail me at TDSMailbag@gmail.com. Enjoy.

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