Grizzly Bear Blues is taking some time this week to take a look at the Grizzlies schedule, month-by-month. Last week, we took a look at October and November, and yesterday we looked at the murderer’s row that was the December schedule.
Today, we’ll be looking ahead, past the drop of that big ball in Times Square, and into the first month of 2017.
After ringing in the new year with a game in Los Angeles against the Lakers, the Grizzlies kick off a doozy of a five-game stretch. That stretch starts with a second straight game in LA, this time against the hated Clippers. After that, the Grizzlies travel north to face off against the Warriors in Oracle Arena. Then, there’s a home game against the Jazz before the Grizzlies play games in Oklahoma City and Houston.
That stretch of games - mostly on the road, all against Western Conference opponents - is brutal, and it’s not made any easier by the fact that the Grizzlies will be coming off of a hellish December. There’s also a lot of travel packed into that ten day stretch. Outside of the Los Angeles back-to-backs, the Grizzlies will be on the road between every game.
Fortunately, after that quintet of games, things lighten up. The Grizzlies get two games against Eastern Conference foes Chicago (now with Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and no spacing!) and Washington, with two days of rest between. Then, after they return from Washington, Memphis will have two home games against the Kings and the Rockets.
Those games aren’t cupcakes, of course. Chicago, with all of its new elements, is still a mystery. Washington is a year removed from a second round appearance. Houston is a talented team with James Harden, new offensive weapons, and a new coach. And the Kings...well, the Kings have Boogie and maybe the “Dave Joerger revenge game” element. Still, compared to the December/early January schedule, this stretch looks downright inviting.
Like November, there’s a chance that Memphis could get hot and do some damage here. But coming off a nightmare December and stepping into another rough slate of games to open the month, it’s much more likely that they get hot down January’s back stretch. With more favorable match-ups in the latter half of January, I’d expect them to start slowly before closing out January around .500 for the month, or, if they play well, slightly above.
The best case scenario, if I’m being honest, is Memphis managing to weather the storm in December, keeping their heads above water, and then hitting their stride in early January. This would allow Memphis to pile up a few needed wins against the teams they’ll be battling for playoff spots. If they can get some momentum, then the biggest issue will be keeping it rolling next month after the All Star Break, which we’ll be discussing tomorrow when the season preview continues!