The Clippers open their 2023-24 NBA season Oct. 25 at home against Portland, and then proceed to largely stay in Los Angeles for the following week.
Four of their first five games will be played at Crypto.com Arena — including a Nov. 1 matchup against the Lakers, a Clippers road game. The home stretch begins, and sets the tone for, a regular-season schedule that could be seen as more forgiving than recent seasons.
The schedule reflects matchups for 80 of their 82 games because their performance in the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament will determine whether those dates are played as part of the knockout round, or filled against two opponents who also failed to advance out of group play.
Some early impressions of the potentially good, bad and challenging of the Clippers’ 2023-24 schedule, their last as co-tenants of Crypto.com Arena.
A more evenly spaced schedule
Each of the last two seasons featured punishing schedules as the Clippers played a league-high 61 games before February’s All-Star break. Last season, it had a dual effect of also leaving the Clippers only 21 games in which to mesh their new additions from the trade deadline after the break.
This season, they will receive more time to catch their breath during a schedule that appears more evenly spaced. They will play 53 games before the All-Star break — 54, should they advance to the in-season tournament championship — and 29 after. That seemingly would be a development the Clippers will welcome for a roster with ongoing concerns about fatigue because its core remains one of the league’s oldest, and considering the team could again be active at the trade deadline.
The schedule features several reprieves for rest. After their fifth game, Nov. 1 against the Lakers, the Clippers will have four days off before a Nov. 6 road game in New York against the Knicks. In January, the Clippers will be home from Jan. 15-25 — a stretch that immediately precedes, and somewhat offsets, their longest road trip — and play only three games in that span.
Last season, 51 games were played on one day of rest; this season, that is reduced to 48. Spacing games earlier in the season will mean that the six weeks leading into the postseason will be packed with games, however. From March until the April 14 regular-season finale, the Clippers play 25 games, and only two will come after more than one day of rest.
Clippers vs. Lakers matchups
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue remains undefeated against the Lakers in his three seasons in Los Angeles. After the season’s first Lakers-Clippers matchup on Nov. 1, the teams will meet again Jan. 7 (a Lakers home game), Jan. 23 (Clippers home game) and Feb. 28 (Clippers home game).
All but the Jan. 7 matchup currently are scheduled to be broadcast nationally. National TV schedules can change during the season — and how far they advance in the in-season tournament also will have an effect — but for now the Clippers are slated to be on national broadcasts 22 times, on either ESPN, NBA TV or Turner Sports.
How much will Leonard and George play?
From Lue to president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, the Clippers have vowed to take this regular season more seriously. The key to making that promise come true is how often Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, their often-injured foundational pieces, play.
Traditionally, they rarely have done so on consecutive days. This season, the Clippers will play 15 sets of games on back-to-back days, an amount unchanged from last season. The back-to-backs also set up another challenging quirk of their schedule: The Clippers will play a league-high 25 stretches of three games in four days. Those will reveal how much the team is willing to push its stars. As Lue said in August, “When we are healthy and we are feeling good, then we’ve got to make sure that we’re trying to play every single night.”
On the topic of back-to-backs: Five of the 15 will be played with both ends in Los Angeles. From Jan. 26 to March 4, the Clippers will play four back-to-backs all on the road, which could make for a difficult stretch. Back-to-backs could also make it harder to judge how the Clippers compare with a particular East power — both of their games against the Milwaukee Bucks will come on the second night of a back-to-back (March 4 and March 10).
One more Grammy trip
Because the Clippers will trade in their downtown arena for their new, Steve Ballmer-constructed Inglewood arena following this season, this marks the last year of their annual Grammy road trip, during which both the Lakers and Clippers depart in late January for their season’s longest road trip to allow the arena time to transform into the host of the music awards show. (Could Intuit Dome one day host the Grammy Awards, necessitating another such long Clippers road trip in the future? Never say never — but that’s a question for another day.)
This season’s Clippers’ Grammy road trip covers seven games, including two sets of back-to-backs, from Jan. 26 through Feb. 5.
Those matchups: Jan. 26 at Toronto, Jan. 27 at Boston, Jan. 29 at Cleveland, Jan. 31 at Washington, Feb. 2 at Detroit, Feb. 4 at Miami and Feb. 5 in Atlanta.
Conversely, the Clippers’ longest homestand includes only four games but lasts through the holidays. Beginning with a Dec. 23 home game against Boston, the Clippers won’t leave home again until Jan. 2, with games Dec. 26 against Charlotte, Dec. 29 against Memphis and Jan. 1 against Miami.
The Clippers’ four-game, in-season tournament group-play schedule was already announced this week, but now we see how they fit into the rest of their schedule. Three of the games will be played on one day of rest, and the last —Nov. 17 vs. Houston — will come after two days off. But the final group-play game, Nov. 24 against New Orleans at home, will be first night of a back-to-back, with the Clippers hosting Dallas the very next day.