The first half of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season went by so fast, it was a task just to keep track of what city the Lakers (20-14) were going to be in on a given night, let alone how that particular opponent was playing.
But with a bit of reflection, we see that the Lakers played perhaps the NBA’s most difficult road schedule, and one that was more challenging than most at home:
Opposing Team Record for Home Games: 285-280 (50.4 percent)
Opposing Team Record for Road Games: 304-266 (53.3 percent)
A 53.3 win percentage for road opponents is strong considering the slow starts of teams like Boston (15-17), New York (17-18), Portland (18-16)* and Denver (18-17). All of those squads play the Lakers particularly tough at home, but L.A. escaped that foursome at 2-3 (two games at Denver). Meanwhile, the best Eastern team the Lakers will travel towards is struggling Detroit (11-24), having already checked off Miami, Orlando and Philly and having Chicago, Atlanta and Indiana left off this season’s road campaign.
*If L.A. played a team with close to a 53.3 percent record every night, Portland at 18-16 (.529) is the closest.
Some tough road games remain, namely: San Antonio (twice); Memphis; Houston; Dallas and the Clippers. But L.A. won’t complain about not returning to Portland, Denver, Utah or Oklahoma City.
Here’s what the second half opponents look like for Mike Brown and Co.:
Post Break Opposing Team Record for Home Games: 307-263 (53.9 percent)
Post Break Opposing Team Record for Road Games: 230-266 (46.4 percent)
L.A.’s coming road games are by far the easiest by opponent win percentage of any of the four sets, while the home schedule is the most difficult, narrowly edging out the road schedule from the first half. L.A., however, has been excellent at home, going 14-2, the only losses (Chicago, Indiana) coming in games the Lakers controlled until the final seconds.
Furthermore: 17 of 32 games are at home; four of 15 road games are in California, four are in Texas and only two come against the East (@DET, @WAS, 3/6 & 3/7).
On the other hand, the Clippers (20-11) – whom L.A. trails by 1.5 games in the Pacific Division, key for playoff seeding – have among the league’s most difficult second stanzas. According to ESPNLA.com’s Arash Markazi, the Clips start March with six road games in nine days, and play 20 games in the 31 days. They also finish the season with nine of their 14 games in April on the road, while the Lakers play only 17 games in March and are at an even 7-7 home/road split in April.
Having weaker opponents by record, of course, guarantees the Lakers nothing. That’s why they play the games, as they say.