The NBA schedule release may not have the same je ne sais quoi as the NFL schedule release, but it does hold some importance.
It’s more than just which teams plays who when. As we’ve seen in seasons past, schedule losses are a real thing and if last season proved anything — Every. Game. Counts.
The NBA hypes up the schedule release with its marquee matchups and its “superstar return/revenge games,” and don’t get me wrong, I love that, but this article will highlight what does not immediately catch the eye.
Three Home Games to Begin Season
The Rockets have three big home games to begin the season, starting with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Two nights later, Zion Williamson makes his Houston debut as the Pelicans come to town. The early-season homestand ends with Chris Paul making his return to Houston as the Thunder and Rockets begin a new chapter in their rivalry. Russell Westbrook will also face the Thunder for the first time in his career.
Rockets-Nets Series Ends in December
The Rockets will face the new-look Nets November 1 in Brooklyn and December 28 in Houston. Unless a medical miracle takes place, Kevin Durant will not see the Rockets on the court this year in the regular season. The Thunder Big 3 reunion will be delayed one more season.
Potential Schedule Losses
The Rockets have 11 back-to-backs this season. In 12 SEGABABAs (second game on back-to-back) last season, the Rockets went 8-4, and the Rockets only swept four back-to-backs last season. This year, two of the team’s SEGABABAs come against the Suns, so that was a blessing from the schedule gods, but there are some tough ones as well.
- The Rockets must travel from Houston to Minnesota after a Friday night game against the Pacers to play a game the following night against the Wolves in mid-November.
- The Rockets’ Christmas Day game against the Warriors is the final game of a four-city, nine-day road trip.
- Following the Christmas Day game comes a back-to-back with the Nets at home and Pelicans on the road.
- The Rockets will visit Denver, Utah and Portland in a span of four days on the team’s altitude road trip in late January.
Post ASB Slam, Then Relief
The Rockets will get a warm welcome after the All-Star Break against the Warriors (potential Klay Thompson return game?) and they follow that up against the Jazz on the road two nights later. After these two difficult games comes a little relief with two games against the Knicks and another against the Grizzlies.
The Rockets have only won twice on Leap Day in franchise history, the last coming almost 12 years ago in 2008 (Win #14 of 22). The Rockets will get a chance to end their Leap Day drought in Boston against the Celtics on ABC. Tipoff is at 7:30 PM CT.
Two 6:30 CT Starts
In an attempt to boost ratings on West Coast games, the TV schedule has been altered on some nights for 6:30 CT starts so that West Coast games can begin at 9 CT. This only affects the Rockets three times during the season (11/6 vs. GS, 11/13 vs. LAC, 4/15 vs. MEM). That Houston traffic is going to be hectic and that lower bowl is going to be even more empty.
No Super Lengthy Road Trips
One of the benefits of playing in the middle of the country is the lack of long road trips. The longest road trip for the Rockets comes March 23-31 when they play Dallas and four Eastern Conference opponents (MIL, IND, DET, PHI).
No Lengthy Home Stands
The Rockets will play no more than three consecutive games at home this season. One of the side effects from playing in such a central location is not getting a long home stand. Teams like the Celtics and Lakers have 5-6 games in a row at home, but the Rockets are not as fortunate.
The Rockets will play on national TV 38 times during the season with 10 games on TNT, fourth-most in the league behind the Warriors, Clippers and Lakers.
Six of Eight Home Games to End Season
As the season comes to a close, the Rockets will be seeing a lot of the Toyota Center. The first two games in this strand of games come against Golden State and Toronto, both of which will be strong playoff tests for the team. The other four games in this section of the schedule (SA, WAS, PHX, MEM) will hopefully help tack on some wins that will help the Rockets notch a better matchup when the playoff schedule comes out.