There is so much structure to the NBA’s schedule that only so much can be gleaned from its release. Who each team plays and how often is essentially the same every year. This isn’t the NFL or MLB where schedules change dramatically year-to-year and division schedules in particular matter so much.
In the NBA, it’s about travel, back-to-backs, how things start and finish and when the big names are coming to town. For the Wizards’ 2018-19 schedule, travel is what stands out first.
Travel Woes Early and Late
The Wizards go on their longest West Coast road trip just three games into the 2018-19 NBA regular season. After hosting the Heat and Raptors, they embark on a five-game swing to battle the Blazers, Warriors, Kings, Clippers and Grizzlies.
Though only two of those teams made the playoffs last season, those two teams are very good. The Warriors are the defending champions and playing them on the road is the most difficult game of the season. The Blazers had the third-best record in the West last season.
Eight of the Wizards’ first 12 games will be on the road. After that they will play seven of their next eight at home.
The end of the Wizards’ regular season could also be difficult based on their travel schedule. They go west on March 26 to play LeBron James and the Lakers to begin a stretch of five of their final eight games on the road. Those away games include matchups with the Jazz and Nuggets, two teams expected to make some noise this season.
The Wizards will play the Spurs and Celtics in their final three games. Depending on how the standings shake out, those could be very important matchups. Given how stacked the Western Conference is, it’s likely the Spurs will be gunning for playoff position.
The Wizards’ most difficult stretches of the season based on preseason expectations are probably Nov. 18 through 30 and January 4 through 13. In that November stretch, they will see the Blazers, Raptors, Pelicans, Rockets and Sixers all in a span of seven games.
In January, they will face the Heat, Thunder, Sixers (twice), Bucks and Raptors all in a row. That’s before they head overseas to London to play the Knicks on Jan. 17.
There are 15 sets of back-to-backs on the Wizards’ schedule. Their first is on Nov. 9 and 10 against the Magic (at home) and the Heat (on the road). They have three back-to-backs from Dec. 18 through Dec. 29.
Golden State's Draymond Green (Right), USA Today Sports Images
Those looking to see the marquee NBA stars and teams when they play in Washington have some dates to mark on their calendars. James and the Lakers play in D.C. on Dec. 16, the Warriors are here on Jan. 24, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Thunder are in town on Nov. 2.
The Wizards host reigning MVP James Harden and the Rockets on Nov. 26, the Spurs on April 5 and the Celtics on Dec. 12 and April 9. They host Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors on Oct. 20, the second game of the season, and Anthony Davis and the Pelicans on Nov. 24.
The Wizards play the Celtics only three times this season and won’t see them until December. They face Joel Embiid and the Sixers three times as well, with the first meeting on Nov. 30. They have a back-to-back, home-to-home set against Philly on Jan. 8 and 9.
Washington will play the Bucks three times and not until Jan. 11. They play them twice in a span of four days on Feb. 2 and 6.
The Wizards will host No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton and the Suns on Dec. 22 and the No. 2 pick, Marvin Bagley and the Kings on March 11. Former Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat will make his return to Washington on Nov. 20.
The Wizards do not play on Christmas this season, nor do they play on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Their regular season begins on Oct. 18 against the Heat and ends on April 9 against the Celtics.
Washington will play eight games on national TV this season, down from 18 the year before. Their first national TV game is against the Thunder on Nov. 2, which will air on ESPN. They have five games on ESPN and three on TNT. Almost all of the Wizards games will also appear on NBC Sports Washington.
Less national TV games is to be expected after the Wizards’ disappointed in the 2017-18 season. They won six fewer games than they did the year before and bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. Given how the Wizards have been motivated in the past by the perception they are overlooked on the national stage, that may be a good thing.
The schedule doesn’t indicate much about how the Wizards’ season will play out. Last year, they struggled against the bad teams and fared well against the good ones. Health will determine plenty, as it always does.
But now everyone can mark their calendars. It all starts on Oct. 18.
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