Monday, August 3, 2009

2009-2010 Trail Blazers Schedule Breakdown

The Portland Trail Blazers 2009-2010 NBA schedule was released today. Portland will be featured 24 times on national television (including NBA TV), with 10 on ESPN, 7 on NBA TV, 6 on TNT,and 1 on ABC, which is the first time I believe Portland has been on a Sunday afternoon game since the NBA switched over from NBC to ABC. Like clockwork, the Trail Blazers will play their fair share of back to backs, 19 total. October/November The opening week of the season provides Portland with a shot at revenge early and often. Portland finally gets the home opener and, for the 3rd straight year, gets a game on the first day of the season, this time against Houston. The two teams get quickly acquainted with one another, as just4 days later, Portland travels down to Houston, on Halloween night, for their home opener. Between the two months has the Blazers playing 19 total games, with 10 home and 9 away, so there will be no 16 of the first 24 games being played outside of the friendly confines of the Rose Garden this season. There is a 5 game eastern road trip in the middle of November, but at least it is sandwiched around a 3 and 4 game home stand. Highlights these months include two national televised games, one vs. Denver on October 29th and vs. San Antonio on November 6th. December December has Portland hitting the road and hitting the road hard. Although there are only 8 away games, they are divided into two 4 game road trips, including the toughest road trip all season; 4 games in 5 nights vs. Orlando, Miami, Dallas, and San Antonio. Playing Denver on Christmas night is the highlight of the 7 home affairs. Is it me, or is playing at home on Christmas becoming a Trail Blazer tradition? Other home games of note include seeing Houston again for the 3rd time in the first 21 games, a visit from Sergio Rodriguez and the Kings on December 15th, Phoenix for a TNT Thursday night game just two days later, and #1 overall pick Blake Griffin and the Clippers for the last game of 2009. January January could prove to be a make or break month for the Trail Blazers if they want to have hopes of becoming North West Division champions. 10 of the month's 15 games are against playoff opponents the previous year. The seasons most memorable home stand also takes place this month as Portland welcomes 5 teams to the Rose Garden, including the Lakers, Cavaliers, and Magic. The 7 roadies don't offer Portland any breaks either as there is a 4 game trip out east vs. Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit. If that wasn't brutal enough, Portland ends the month, on a back to back, taking on the Rockets and Mavericks. Due to the amount of higher prestige opponents, there are two games that will be slept on. It is a small tow game home stand vs. the Hornets on the 25th and the Jazz the 27th. February While January could be feast or famine, February offers the Blazers a chance to either catch up to conference leaders if needed or run away from the pack. There is only 13 games this month, due to the All-Star break, with 7 being against teams who missed the playoffs in 2009. Also, February provides Portland with their easiest Road Trip of the season, a 5 game in 7 nights date against the Nets, Raptors, Bulls, Timber Wolves, and Grizzlies. As usual, the main event for the month is a Saturday night matchup vs. the heated Lakers on the 6th. Other high points involve another TNT Thursday night battle, this time against the Spurs on the 4th and the Celtics only appearance at the Garden this year, on the 19h, which will be nationally broadcast on ESPN. March If Portland can make it through January, either in the division lead or nipping at the heals of the leader, the next two months offer up huge potential advantages for our boys in scarlet and black. For the second straight month, Portland plays the majority of their games against teams who did not participate in the 2009 NBA playoffs. Instead of it only being a 1 game advantage, in March, the Blazers will play 9 of the 13 games against those non qualifiers. Also, there is no road trip longer than 2 games and Memphis, TN is the furthest east Portland has to travel in the month. The focal point of the month comes in a 3 game spanning from the 21st - 27th where Portland dukes it out at Phoenix, comes home to finally try to beat Dallas in the Garden, and finishes up at New Orleans. But make no mistake about it, the marquee game of the month is a Sunday night game against Hedo Turkoglu and the Toronto Raptors. I wonder if he will be booed more or less mercifully than Darius Miles last year? April For the third straight month, the Blazers are playing the majority of their games against non-playoff teams last season. The shortened month of April offers up only 7 games, 3 home and 4 away. Portland makes their one and only trip to visit the Lakers this season on Sunday April 11th, which is a nationally televised game picked up by ABC. The Blazers lucked out only having to make one trip to Staples this year and maybe LA has a comfortable lead or is mathematically eliminated from best overall record and rests some players. The last of 4 meetings against Denver occurs on April Fool's Day, in Denver which could seal the division for either team or just make the race for home court that much tighter. I was a little disappointed to see Fan Appreciation Night, the final home game of the season, was against the lowly Golden State Warriors, but it could be a positive for the Trail Blazers, if in case, playoff seeding is on the line just like last year. Three's Company Ever since the NBA expanded in 2004, moving the Bobcats to Charlotte and the New Orleans Hornets to the Western Conference, there are 4 teams each year Portland gets to play only 3 times, instead of the regular 2 home/2 away against other conference foes. The Trail Blazers really lucked out in regards to this scheduling quirk, as 3 of the 4 teams Portland plays are Western Conference powers and the other has been a thorn in the Blazers' side the past 5 years. The four teams are as follows:
  1. Los Angeles Lakers Portland plays LA twice at the Rose Garden, looking to extend their home winning streak from 8 to 10, and only once down in Los Angeles.
  2. San Antonio Spurs The Blazers finally broke through the curse of the Spurs last year, even winning in San Antonio, this time around we only get one shot to win in the Alamo city. The other two games will be at the raucous Rose Garden.
  3. New Orleans Hornets Our boys usually play very well at home vs. the Hornets, unfortunately, we only get them one time at the RG. On the other hand, New Orleans is almost like the new house of horrors. I can even remember the game from January, in 2005, where Damon Stoudamire dropped 54 points and we still lost to a Dan Dickau led Hornets squad, where a huge 20+ point lead was lost.
  4. Phoenix Suns With Shaq gone, Phoenix will still give Portland fits. With a healthy Amare Stoudemire, they still push the tempo and have the talent to run you out of the building on any given night. Even though they aren't the Phoenix of a few years ago, even winning one in Phoenix would be a miracle, considering we haven't won there since February 4th, 2004 and lost our last 10 of 11.

Overall Analysis There is great balance to the 2009-2010 schedule for the Trail Blazers. Each month there is only a difference of 1 game between home and away games. Also, being the outlier geographically, the team travels further than nearly any other franchise, but a break does come with the schedule as the Blazers don't have to travel east past a February 26th encounter with the Bulls. The days of 6-8 game road trips are over, as this year, Portland's longest venture away from home is only 5 games, which occurs twice. After last year's first 16 of 24 away from home, the NBA gave Portland some huge breaks. As mentioned, the 4 teams we only play 3 times are all very, very lethal and, in the last 3 months of the season, we play against more teams who didn't make the playoffs last year than those who did on average. If we can attack the front end of the schedule and be in contention for home-court advantage, the back end could allow us to only enhance our playoff position.
Top 10 Home Games I'm Looking Forward To As a season ticket holder, there are always those games that catch the eye as soon as the schedule is released. Here is my top 10 and why:
  1. Los Angeles Lakers - January 8 The first home game vs. LA is always the creme of the crop. There is nothing better than seeing 1,000+ people clad in purple and gold popping off before the game only to be seen on the jumbo-tron walking with their tail between their legs with 3 minutes to go in the game.
  2. Houston Rockets - October 27 There is just something special about home openers. Everything from the player introductions to seeing how the new guy, in this case Andre Miller, performs are aspects of opening night I look forward too.
  3. Los Angeles Lakers - February 6 It is the Lakers, my most hated team in all of sports. I love seeing how the rivalry has progressed from us hating their guts and always playing up for the game to now LA taking us seriously and watching Kobe get angry as he can't break the RG curse.
  4. Denver Nuggets - December 25 For me, personally, the Christmas games are a chance for my family to all go to the game together. It has become a Christmas tradition for my family and I to have Christmas dinner a little early and make our way up for the game. This year should be the best of all, a nice divisional clash on the happiest day of the year.
  5. Boston Celtics - February 19 Not only are the 2008 champs in the city, but they are bringing back former Blazer Rasheed Wallace with them, who usually gets a mixed reaction when he is introduced into the game. I'm sure Boston has not forgotten their loss in the Rose City last year against a Roy-less Blazer team.
  6. Orlando Magic - January 15 The NBA runner ups come to town, and lately, they don't have too much of a problem beating us here. We had them on the ropes last year in the Garden but choked it away. Although they lost 3 starters, they gained Brandon Bass and Vince Carter which could make for a shootout for the ages.
  7. Toronto Raptors - March 14 Hedo Turkoglu returns to the Rose City after spurning the Trail Blazers in free agency after verbally agreeing to a 5 year/$50 million deal. Nuff Said.
  8. Utah Jazz - February 21 Hopefully Carlos Boozer is still with the Jazz so we can see Thrilla v. Boozer Part II. It brings a smile on my face every time the Jazz come to town. Seeing Jerry Sloan go crazy mad on the side lines, watching our bigs dominate softy Okur down low, and seeing Brandon Roy outshine Deron Williams are all things I'm looking forward to seeing.
  9. Denver Nuggets - October 29 Second game of the year and the potential to gain an early lead on the Nuggets. Outside of LA, Denver is my most hated team and I love beating hated foes. This will also be Andre Miller's second game with the team and with that comes a duel between he and Mr. Billups which is worth the price of admission alone.
  10. Golden State Warriors - April 14 Fan Appreciation Night. I love the free posters the team gives out and with a sure-fire playoff team, it could mean playoff seeding position on the last night of the year like last season vs. Denver.

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