January 10, 2013
By Joe Nelson
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The NBA season is approaching the halfway point and the next several weeks will present a critical juncture for several teams. Here is a look at the remaining January schedules and the most favorable and least favorable slates the next few weeks.
Denver Nuggets: Only 14 of Denver's 37 games have been at home so far this season, where the Nuggets are 12-2. The 21-16 record may have Denver undervalued as the schedule has been one of the league's toughest to date and an upcoming home-heavy slate can allow Denver to rise in the standings. Denver has two big games with Oklahoma City in the next few weeks, but eight of 10 remaining January games are at home and only once the rest of the month does Denver have to play on consecutive days.
Milwaukee Bucks: The coaching change may have been well-timed for Milwaukee as the Bucks could gain some positive momentum in the coming weeks. Milwaukee does have a four-game road trip coming up, but they don't play any of those games on consecutive days and three of the four games will come against teams with losing records. The Bucks have seven of 10 remaining January games against teams with losing records and they won't have to play any of the league's elite teams as the matchups against winning teams feature Portland, Golden State, and Chicago with the latter two games at home.
Orlando Magic: The Magic ride an awful losing streak into mid-January with a date with the Clippers this weekend, but things will soften from there. Orlando will play five straight games against losing teams in a favorable second half of the month with four of those games coming at home. A longer East Coast trip will close the month, but Orlando should have an opportunity to end the skid and gain some positive momentum playing six of the next 10 games against losing teams.
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers just finished off an absolutely brutal stretch of the schedule with almost exclusively road games in the latter part of December. Not surprisingly, the results have been poor but an opportunity to rebound lies ahead with seven of the remaining eight games in January at home. Philadelphia has significant rest worked into the schedule and only a home game with the Spurs will come against an elite team. Hosting lesser teams like New Orleans, Toronto, and Washington should help improve Philadelphia's record.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are right in the mix at the top of the Western Conference and they conceivably could head into the All-Star Break with the league's best record with a favorable stretch ahead. San Antonio only has 10 games remaining in January and only twice will they have to play on consecutive nights. The Spurs will play six of the next 10 games at home and only two road games the rest of the month will come against winning teams. The Spurs do play Memphis twice, but then will close the month with five straight games against losing teams.
Detroit Pistons: After a brutal start to the season, Detroit has shown improvement and the Pistons have picked up several big wins in recent weeks. There are just 10 games left in January for the Pistons, but it will be a difficult stretch with eight of those games coming against winning teams. The Pistons do get to play Orlando twice, but there are also games with New York, Chicago, Miami, and Indiana, facing off with some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Detroit also has three sets of back-to-back games on consecutive days coming up.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors have been one of the great stories of the season, sitting 10 games above .500. The end of January will provide a big test to the staying power for Golden State with eight of the 12 opponents possessing a winning record and seven of the next 12 games coming on the road, including long travel in several instances. The next four home games feature Portland, Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Oklahoma City and the Warriors also play Denver, San Antonio, and Chicago on the road. If Golden State is still 10 games above .500 by the end of the month, then maybe the playoff dreams are for real.
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have made strides in recent weeks, rising to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Indiana might have a hard time maintaining that pace in the coming weeks with a brutal stretch with seven of eight on the road ahead. Five of those seven road games will be against winning teams and the Pacers also have upcoming home games with the Knicks and the Rockets. Seven of 11 games left in January will be against winning teams in a road-heavy rest of the month.
Miami Heat: The defending champions have already lost twice in four games in January and there are more challenges ahead the rest of the month with the next five games on a six-game road trip ahead. Miami has just two of the next nine games at home and while those are two games that Miami will be a heavy favorite in, there are big games coming up with the Warriors, Lakers, Celtics, and Nets, and all of those challenges will be on the road.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Oklahoma City owns one of the best records in the NBA, but they could slip in the coming weeks with a brutal gauntlet of games. The Thunder play nine of the remaining 11 January games away from home including challenging contests at both the Lakers and Clippers in Los Angeles, at Portland, at Denver, and at Golden State with some of those big games coming in succession. The only two home dates the rest of the month come against the Nuggets and Grizzlies, providing no breaks on the slate.
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