Toughest and easiest stretches for the Lakers in their 2021-22 season

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

We now know the full 2021-22 preseason and regular season schedule for the Los Angeles Lakers. After an offseason that was chaotic and hastened due to the 2019-20 season not wrapping up until October, it almost feels unusual to have so much time in between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of the upcoming season. It’s been 35 days since the Bucks beat the Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals, with today marking 40 days until the Lakers’ first preseason game on October 3rd.

Since we now know the full 82-game path and we have so much time on our hands, let’s examine the full schedule to see when the Lakers may be rolling with win-after-win, as well as when they may hit a rough patch.

An easy start for the Lakers

Although the Lakers will definitely be tested in their first two games (contests at home against the Warriors and then the Suns) they get a pretty easy opening 10 games that should allow them to iron out some kinks within their on-court play. Following those opening two games, the Lakers play the Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder, Cavaliers, Rockets (twice), Thunder again, and then the Trail Blazers.

Only three of the opening 10 games will be on the road, as the Staples Center crowd will get plenty of new superstar Russell Westbrook early on. There is a road back-to-back within these first 10 games, however, that back-to-back is against the lowly Spurs and Thunder. Those two teams are expected to be the worst of the worst in the Western Conference and to top it off, the Lakers won’t be at a rest disadvantage (per Positive Residual) in the second night of that back-to-back against the Thunder as they will also be on the second night of a back-to-back.

As I previously stated, the easy opening to their schedule should allow the team to develop its on-court chemistry without losing many games. This is extremely beneficial as Frank Vogel will probably not be able to get his team to the comfort level he desires before the season starts. This is to be expected given the insane roster turnover between last year and this year.

The dreaded Grammys road trip

Every year, the Lakers are subjected to a late January/early February road trip that is longer than all their other road trips. This absence from Los Angeles is caused by the annual Grammy award show that takes over the L.A. Live area outside the arena with part of the event also occurring within Staples Center.

The show, currently slated to occur on January 31st, will cause the Lakers to be on the road from January 21st through February 2nd when they will finally return home to play the Trail Blazers. In that time, they will play six away games against the Magic, Heat, Nets, 76ers, Hornets, and Hawks. The Hornets and 76ers will both present tough road matchups. The Heat will as well as they are looking to return to the NBA Finals with their new All-Star point guard, Kyle Lowry. Trae Young and the Hawks will also be a formidable opponent as will their fans who gave the Knicks and 76ers faithful a run for their money before the Hawks were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Bucks.

And then, of course, I don’t need to tell you about the Brooklyn Nets. The January 25th contest between the team will be their second and final game against each other in the regular season, following the Christmas Day matchup in L.A.

For a visual representation of the beginning of the Lakers schedule compared to the Grammy road trip above, take a look at Positive Residual’s design of the Lakers schedule using the overall strength of their opponent based on the team’s previous record as well as other facets including whether or not it’s a back-to-back, if the Lakers are at home/on the road, etc.

Strength of opponent for each game for the Lakers in October and November. The more blue a hue, the weaker the opponent. The more red that a game is, the stronger the opponent is. Images courtesy of Positive Residual (
Strength of opponent for each game for the Lakers in January. Images courtesy of Positive Residual (

A rough end to the season

As Jacob Rude of Silver Screen & Roll noted when the full schedule came out, the Lakers may have their work cut out for them at the end of the season while jostling with other teams for top seeds in the Western Conference.

Three of their final four games will be on the road, with all of those road games coming against teams that are likely to be in the 2022 NBA Playoffs (Suns, Warriors, Nuggets). To make those four games even worse, the lone home game will be the second night of a back-to-back, again, this time against the Thunder. However, this time the Thunder will have a rest advantage over the Lakers (although at this point I expect the Thunder to be in a full-on tanking mode so that game still might be an easy win).

The Lakers should have the playoffs clinched at this point if everything goes according to plan, but still, it’s worrisome to see so many tough matchups to end the season when the Lakers may be fighting to get the top overall seed to secure home court advantage through what is expected to be a long playoff run.

A favorable schedule overall

Aside from the two tough stretches noted above, the Lakers actually ended up with one of the easier schedules in the entire NBA (Positive Residual has their schedule as the 7th-easiest in terms of strength-of-schedule). Judging by the following that Jacob Rude also notes, maybe Adam Silver and the NBA felt bad about how old LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and the other Lakers are.

Anyways, I hope you are now prepared for the highs and lows of what is sure to be a historic 82-0 regular season on the way to a 16-0 2022 NBA Playoffs that ends in another championship.

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