August 12, 2019
You already know what time it is — the Sixers' 2019-20 season has been announced, so I'm here to highlight all the important games they'll play, the impact of the back-to-back load on their schedule, and (definitely not) give a prediction on their record next season.
Let's just get right to it.
• The Sixers will have their first Christmas Day game at home since the late 1980s, and this year's edition will pit them against last year's No.1 overall seed Milwaukee Bucks and MVP winner Giannis Antetokounmpo.
• Philadelphia's opening game will be against (who else?) the Boston Celtics on October 23rd, as the league continues to try to lean into that rivalry in spite of how the rosters of each team have changed. This time, Al Horford will be on the other side of the battle, and Kemba Walker replaces Kyrie Irving as the electric point guard the Sixers are tasked with stopping.
One important note here — after two consecutive years of playing on opening night for the NBA calendar, the Sixers got bumped to night two this year. Hardly a travesty, but that two-year streak is over.
• Jimmy Butler's big return to Philadelphia will come on Saturday, November 23rd, and you can go ahead and circle that night and stretch of the calendar right now. What will the reaction be when Butler makes his Wells Fargo Center debut for the Heat?
Public favor has certainly turned on Butler after he left, but honestly, I think he will probably receive a reasonably warm reception when he is first brought back, only to be booed like any other player later on. He was fantastic in the playoffs and the team was able to build what is perhaps an even better team as he left, so I think the potential for a hostile envrionment may be overstated. Never know until he steps on the floor, of course.
• The new-look Clippers come to town for the first time on Tuesday, February 11 (a game that will be broadcast on TNT, but I would caution against paying a bunch of money to boo Kawhi Leonard in person, considering we don't even know if he will suit up for that one.
For once, investing in Warriors tickets might be a safer (and even cheaper?) bet. Golden State comes to town on Tuesday, January 28, and with the talent level out West and Klay Thompson likely to still be on the mend, it will be the Steph Curry show in South Philly.
• LeBron James wasn't able to lure Kawhi Leonard to his team in L.A., but Sixers-Lakers is always a fun one no matter what, and now Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid will get to renew their "rivalry" with higher stakes. The purple-and-gold come to Philly on Saturday, January 25th. That game will be on ABC.
• Philadelphia will be part of the league's annual slate of games on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in a matchup against the Brooklyn Nets at 3 p.m. in Brooklyn on January 20th. The first of four meetings against Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn will come on December 15th at 6 p.m. in Brooklyn.
This is a lot more important than the individual matchups — the Sixers will be involved in 13 different back-to-back scenarios this season, equal to the amount they had last season. The difference now, obviously, is that they have gone out and acquired Al Horford in large part to deal with these situations better.
Here's something I think will benefit the Sixers: the early portion of the schedule is relatively light schedule-wise, which should allow them to to get extra rest and practice days in as they try to start gelling as a team. Unfortunately, they also go on a decent-sized road trip to open November, hitting up Portland, Phoenix, Utah, and Denver on the roadover a week-and-a-half span.
How the Sixers choose to navigate these back-to-backs will be one of the stories of the season, though the league did Philadelphia a lot of favors with how they bunched these games together. Many of the pairings feature two games against teams on the lower end of the NBA totem pole, with a few notable exceptions — Butler's return is the second-half of a back-to-back in late November, and there's a Boston-New Orleans pairing in mid-December that should be a pair of excellent games if the home-road back-to-back doesn't derail it.
A couple of periods stand out to me on first glance — the early March run through the West Coast will be tough, featuring trips to both LA teams and a meeting with the Golden State Warriors, and the aforementioned road trip out West in early November. With the team still trying to figure out an identity early, I would not be surprise if there is some sputtering and early panicking at the start of November, especially if they somehow lose to the Celtics on opening night, too.
(Also worth watching — their early December run that starts with a visit from the Toronto Raptors on the 8th and ends with the second home game of the year against Butler's Heat. The Pelicans are young, upstart team in the middle of that run, but they have some serious talent.)
However, the good news for Philly is that the league seems to have done them a solid by alternating difficulty for most of the season. While some will consider these "trap games" and the Sixers will inevitably lose a few, meetings with teams like Charlotte or Phoenix or the Knicks take the sting out of some otherwise tricky periods.
Unlike in seasons past, however, the Sixers may face some difficulty in April as they try to lock up seeding. A meeting with Milwaukee on April 7th looms as a potential battleground for the No. 1 seed, and while no one else they'll face is a true contender, they have a late back-to-back against the Spurs and Pelicans, two teams who could be in the playoff hunt with everything to play for late in the year.
Here's the full schedule for the 2019-20 season, with home games in bold and national TV games in italics.
Wed. 23-Oct-19 Boston 7:30 PM ESPN
Sat. 26-Oct-19 at Detroit 7:00 PM
Mon. 28-Oct-19 at Atlanta 7:30 PM
Wed. 30-Oct-19 Minnesota 7:00 PM
Sat. 2-Nov-19 at Portland 7:00 PM
Mon. 4-Nov-19 at Phoenix 7:00 PM
Wed. 6-Nov-19 at Utah 7:00 PM
Fri. 8-Nov-19 at Denver 7:00 PM
Sun. 10-Nov-19 Charlotte 6:00 PM
Tue. 12-Nov-19 Cleveland 7:00 PM
Wed. 13-Nov-19 at Orlando 7:00 PM
Fri. 15-Nov-19 at Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Sun. 17-Nov-19 at Cleveland 3:00 PM
Wed. 20-Nov-19 New York 7:00 PM
Fri. 22-Nov-19 San Antonio 8:00 PM ESPN
Sat. 23-Nov-19 Miami 7:30 PM
Mon. 25-Nov-19 at Toronto 7:30 PM
Wed. 27-Nov-19 Sacramento 7:00 PM
Fri. 29-Nov-19 at New York 7:30 PM
Sat. 30-Nov-19 Indiana 7:00 PM
Mon. 2-Dec-19 Utah 7:00 PM
Thu. 5-Dec-19 at Washington 7:00 PM
Sat. 7-Dec-19 Cleveland 7:30 PM
Sun. 8-Dec-19 Toronto 6:00 PM
Tue. 10-Dec-19 Denver 7:00 PM
Thu. 12-Dec-19 at Boston 8:00 PM TNT
Fri. 13-Dec-19 New Orleans 7:00 PM
Sun. 15-Dec-19 at Brooklyn 6:00 PM
Wed. 18-Dec-19 Miami 7:30 PM ESPN
Fri. 20-Dec-19 Dallas 8:00 PM ESPN
Sat. 21-Dec-19 Washington 7:00 PM
Mon. 23-Dec-19 at Detroit 7:00 PM
Wed. 25-Dec-19 Milwaukee 2:30 PM ABC
Fri. 27-Dec-19 at Orlando 7:00 PM
Sat. 28-Dec-19 at Miami 8:00 PM
Tue. 31-Dec-19 at Indiana 3:00 PM
Fri. 3-Jan-20 at Houston 7:00 PM ESPN
Mon. 6-Jan-20 Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Thu. 9-Jan-20 Boston 7:00 PM TNT
Sat. 11-Jan-20 at Dallas 7:30 PM
Mon. 13-Jan-20 at Indiana 7:00 PM
Wed. 15-Jan-20 Brooklyn 7:00 PM ESPN
Fri. 17-Jan-20 Chicago 7:00 PM ESPN
Sat. 18-Jan-20 at New York 7:30 PM
Mon. 20-Jan-20 at Brooklyn 3:00 PM
Wed. 22-Jan-20 at Toronto 7:30 PM ESPN
Sat. 25-Jan-20 L.A. Lakers 8:30 PM ABC
Tue. 28-Jan-20 Golden State 7:30 PM TNT
Thu. 30-Jan-20 at Atlanta 7:30 PM
Sat. 1-Feb-20 at Boston 8:30 PM ABC
Mon. 3-Feb-20 at Miami 7:30 PM
Thu. 6-Feb-20 at Milwaukee 7:00 PM TNT
Fri. 7-Feb-20 Memphis 7:00 PM
Sun. 9-Feb-20 Chicago 6:00 PM
Tue. 11-Feb-20 L.A. Clippers 7:00 PM TNT
Thu. 20-Feb-20 Brooklyn 8:00 PM TNT
Sat. 22-Feb-20 at Milwaukee 7:30 PM ABC
Mon. 24-Feb-20 Atlanta 7:00 PM
Wed. 26-Feb-20 at Cleveland 7:00 PM
Thu. 27-Feb-20 New York 7:00 PM
Sun. 1-Mar-20 at L.A. Clippers 12:30 PM ABC
Tue. 3-Mar-20 at L.A. Lakers 7:00 PM TNT
Thu. 5-Mar-20 at Sacramento 7:00 PM
Sat. 7-Mar-20 at Golden State 5:30 PM ABC
Wed. 11-Mar-20 Detroit 7:30 PM ESPN
Sat. 14-Mar-20 Indiana 7:30 PM
Mon. 16-Mar-20 Washington 7:00 PM
Wed. 18-Mar-20 Toronto 7:00 PM
Thu. 19-Mar-20 at Charlotte 7:00 PM
Sat. 21-Mar-20 Atlanta 7:00 PM
Tue. 24-Mar-20 at Minnesota 7:00 PM
Thu. 26-Mar-20 at Chicago 7:00 PM
Fri. 27-Mar-20 Phoenix 7:00 PM
Sun. 29-Mar-20 Portland 7:30 PM
Tue. 31-Mar-20 Houston 7:30 PM TNT
Fri. 3-Apr-20 at Washington 7:00 PMSun. 5-Apr-20 Orlando 1:00 PM
Tue. 7-Apr-20 Milwaukee 7:30 PM TNT
Fri. 10-Apr-20 at San Antonio 7:30 PM
Sat. 11-Apr-20 at New Orleans 6:00 PM
Mon. 13-Apr-20 at Memphis 7:00 PM
Wed. 15-Apr-20 Charlotte 7:30 PM
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