The NBA has released it's schedule and you know what that means. Basketball is right around the corner!
With the schedule finally out, the preseason is next month and then, before you know it, we'll be entrenched in regular season Wizards basketball once again.
I know what you're thinking. This is way too much, too soon. You miss the NBA, but you're overwhelmed. Summer League just ended! Kelly Oubre's fashion sense is just so new to you! Bradley Beal and John Wall are in Team USA practices right now! How are you supposed to digest a full 82-game schedule!?
No worries! We have you covered right here. Here's a guide with key games on the schedule, quick notes and when we play the Cleveland Cavaliers. You're going to be just fine.
Here are a few things we should note before diving in. The NBA has dramatically reduced four game in five night stretches overall by 61 percent. The Wizards have one such stretch where they have to play four games in five nights. The team will also have 19 sets of back-to-back games starting with their season opener on the road where they'll be in Orlando. After that they'll travel to Milwaukee to face the Bucks.
They will have four dreaded afternoon games this season. Two of those games are at 1:00 p.m., one is at 2:00 p.m. and the last is at 3:00 p.m. And only one of those games ison the road. The Wizards will face the Clippers on Sunday, April 3 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
The Wizards only have five(!!!!) national TV games this season. That ties them with the Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns for games broadcast nationally this year. How that happens I have no clue. The Wizards are clearly a step beyond those teams and should probably see more. But this is nothing new, so lets move on.
Now, let's get down to the meat and taters of the schedule.
When is the home opener?
The Wizards will finally play at home against the New York Knicks on October 31, which falls on a Saturday. I don't know about you all, but I'm all for Saturday night games. The two sides will tip off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. As you all know by now, traffic may be a bit ridiculous--especially on a Halloween night. So you may want to do your best to get there early.
Do we have a Christmas Day game this year?
Sadly, no. The Wizards will not play on Christmas day this year. John Wall did numbers against the Knicks last year with 24 points, 11 assists and an incredible 360 spin .
Instead, the NBA chose to feature Anthony Davis, who is the best up-and-comer in the NBA without question, against the Miami Heat. The Heat are on the rise once again after making power moves throughout the end of last season and this offseason. So we should be in for a treat early on even if our guys are not playing.
Other games on the slate include Chicago vs. Oklahoma City, Golden State vs. Cleveland, Houston vs. San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. So every single game in that slate is pretty appealing aside from the Lakers facing the Clippers, but this could be Kobe Bryant's last hurrah, so the timing may be just right.
When do we play the Cavs?
We play our mortal enemies four times this season. The first matchup will be on Tuesday, December 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET on the road in Cleveland. The next two matchups will be in Washington. First, on Wednesday, January 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET and then on Sunday, February 28 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Finally, the two sides will face each other for the last time in the regular season on Friday, March 4 at 8:00 p.m. in Cleveland. That game will be part of ESPN's national broadcast schedule.
Every single one of those matchups could be meaningful in terms of jostling for playoff positioning. The Cavs are widely expected to be the favorites in the Eastern Conference after their Finals run last season and rightfully so. But the Wizards are going to have to at least tie this season series if they want to hold serve and take homecourt advantage this season like they aspired to do last year.
What will be their toughest stretch of games?
The Wizards' toughest stretch will start on December 4 when they face the Phoenix Suns at home and will end on December 16 when they see the San Antonio Spurs on the road. In between, they'll see the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets. They'll also have a four game Western Conference road trip where they'll face the New Orleans Pelicans on the 11th, the Mavericks on the 12th, the Memphis Grizzlies on the 14th and they'll finish up with Lamarcus Aldridge and the Spurs on the 16th.
That will be the stretch that gives us a glimpse early on of what the Wizards are. Those games are in the first quarter of the season, so it's an early test. But it'll be difficult nonetheless and it may have a drastic impact on what the Wizards' season looks like moving forward.
What games are "can't miss" material?
Any game against the Cavaliers is can't miss. Anytime those two sides get together given the past between the Wizards and LeBron James, Wall's rivalry with Kyrie Irving and the dramatic difference between the way the two teams have operated over the last half-decade, those games are must-see TV.
But other than that, here are some goodies:
November 6 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant will return home for the first time this season. This will be the last road game the Thunder will have in Washington before Durant becomes a free agent. Durant just got his first career win in Washington last season when the Thunder beat the Wizards on their home court. It'll be interesting to see whether the fans cheer Durant once again in this game in an effort to show him one last dose of hometown love.
November 28 vs. the Toronto Raptors
The rivalry between the Wizards and Raptors will live on into this season. Many have no clue how the Raptors season will go after losing key players in Amir Johnson and Lou Williams, but Demarre Carroll adds some defense and three point shooting on their wing. After the sweep last year where the Raptors were dominated, they're going to have a chip on their shoulder when playing the Wiz.
March 23 vs. the Atlanta Hawks
This will be the Wizards' first home game against the Hawks and the first time the fans in the Verizon Center will have seen the dirty birds since Paul Pierce's jump shot dropped just a few ticks too late. The Hawks made their way into the doghouse of many fans last season after Wall sustained an injury against them and Jeff Teague took out Bradley Beal on a transition shot attempt. There will definitely be some boo-birds in the building for this one.
December 28 vs. the Clippers
This will be Paul Pierce's first time returning to D.C. since bolting for Los Angeles and Doc Rivers. Pierce's move was anticipated on most accounts when he opted out of his deal, but that did not remove the sting of losing such a legend. From his game winner in Atlanta where he called game, to him constantly trolling the Raptors, Wizards fans have so much to thank him for. I anticipate he'll have a pretty warm reception upon his return.
That does it! There's your guide. You can check out the Wizards' full schedule here.