The 2011-12 NBA season did not feel real until around 6 p.m. CST on Tuesday night; when the Milwaukee Bucks shortened 66-game schedule was released to glorious flurry of tweets and writers pinching themselves at the thought of discussing real basketball for the next six months.
Along with this nifty team-by-team opponent breakdown (h/t to Adam Koscielak from Sun-n-Gun for the spreadsheet) of the Bucks’ 66 regular season opponents (starting Monday, December 26 in Charlotte), we have some immediate reactions to Milwaukee’s path to a (hopeful) playoff appearance in May.
The Bucks will play 20 back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-back from March 22-24 (Boston, at Charlotte, Indiana). However, that triple-header begins a stretch of five games in six days (March 26 – at New York, March 27 – vs. Atlanta), which forces me to hat-tip Jeremy Schmidt at Bucksketball for Nostradamus-ing that one. Fortunately, that gruesome stretch is rewarded with a softened schedule down the stretch.
Last year, Milwaukee played 22 back-to-backs spread throughout a full 82-game schedule. Unfortunately, that reduction on paper actually makes the season even more grueling, but every other team is dealing with the same time-crunch issues.
Toughest Month: December-January
January 2012 felt like deer hunting season when the now-useless 2011-12 schedule was released, as the Bucks were slated to play 12 of 16 games on the road. Unfortunately, hunting season will go on as planned, with a few regulatory changes.
The re-vamped January schedule still sends Milwaukee on a five game road trip to start 2012 (Denver, Utah, Sacramento, LA Clippers, Phoenix), and the Bucks will still play more games on the road (12) than at home (8) between December and January.
Milwaukee also gets to test its physical resilience early with a season-high six back-to-backs and 20 games in 36 days. With less than a month to prepare as a team, that’s as close to hitting the ground running as any NBA schedule will get.
Easiest Month: April
If you believe in NBA scheduling karma, January snow showers will bring April flowers to the Bradley Center. To close out the 2011-12 season, the Bucks get their longest home-stand of the season (Cleveland, Charlotte, Portland, Oklahoma City, New York), and a 9-4 home/road advantage.
Four of their April opponents finished 2010-11 with winning records (Portland, Oklahoma City, New York, at Boston), and playing three of those games at home definitely makes a late-season playoff push look possible.
Milwaukee only plays four back-to-backs, and even gets to play the Detroit Pistons on ESPN (April 13). I could think of close to 65 reasons why any other game would be preferable to showcase the Bucks’ alleged talent on a national stage, but there’s probably a reason I don’t live in Bristol, Connecticut.
We anticipated this schedule more than others in the past, in part because its existence was left in doubt as recently as a month ago. We’ve still got a long way to go, so sit back and enjoy the fact that the 2011-12 NBA season is real.