Breaking Down the Toronto Raptors' 2011-12 NBA Schedule


The 2011-12 NBA Schedule was released last night and the HQ breaks down the way things may potentially unfold for the Toronto Raptors.

I've had this feeling before.

It's the one where you know, you're approaching the peak of the biggest loop on a roller coaster, just before you make that huge, precipitous plunge.

You know what's coming, but there's nothing you can do to alter what's about to transpire, and it's going to be so intense, that it will seem over before it's begun.

That's pretty much how I would describe my feelings last night as I perused the recently released 2011-12, abridged, NBA schedule. It's going to be a rush, with the league packing in as many games as possible between Christmas day and April 26.

For the Toronto Raptors this means:

-17 of the team's first 26 games are on the road

-20 back-to-back games

-19 games in the 31 days of January

-A stretch in that January span that includes 8 of 9 straight on the road

How's that for the team's lottery chances?

However if you look closer at things, the schedule doesn't have as many pitfalls as I assumed it would. Yes, the start is pretty rough for sure, but Toronto only has one back-to-back-to-back, and it's against the beatable trio of Minnesota, Washington and Sacramento from January 9 to 11. Other than subbing in the Cavs and Bobcats there, the NBA couldn't have given a team a more favourable "trio" situation.

In addition, Toronto's opponents as laid out in this new schedule had a winning percentage below .500 last year (.495 to be exact), so it's not as if the NBA dealt the Dinos the best possible hand in terms of maximizing ping pong balls.

For fans, unfortunately the abridged schedule means folks like Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and more importantly, Steve Nash won't be making a trip to the friendly confines of the ACC this year.

As well, only four Sunday home games, the type of matches that were traditionally a staple of a Toronto Raptors' regular season schedule.

But forget the overview, let's dig into things as we did back in July when the original schedule was released, and present a month-by-month look at how Toronto may fare this season, based on the new schedule.



December

December is really just three games now, not including the two preseason, "home-and-homes" against the Boston Celtics.

The team faces Cleveland in its debut on Boxing Day, in Cleveland, before taking on the Pacers two days later in the home opener. Finally, on December 30, the club travels to Dallas to take on the defending NBA Champs.

It's not the worst possible start for a team and it's quite possible the club starts the season with a winning record, something they'll need heading into January, the busiest month in team history.

Record prediction for December- 2 and 1.

January

Ok so 19 games this month, the bulk of which are on the road, and the much-discussed "back-to-back-to-back."

The month isn't packed with juggernaut opponents, clubs like Minny, Washington and Cleveland dote the early part of the month, but there are enough potholes here to make things pretty tough in terms of creating any momentum for the remainder of the season. This is especially the case towards the end of the month where Toronto faces Chicago, Atlanta, Boston and Portland before heading out West to take on teams like the Clips and Suns.

Record prediction for January- 5 and 14.

February

February starts off with a match in Boston and ends with a road trip to New Orleans, the same as the NBA had originally planned back in July.

Not exactly friendly bookends and the matches in the middle aren't exactly a walk in the park either.

Sure, there are only 13 games in Feb thanks to the NBA All-Star break, and a few potential ducks like Charlotte and Washington, but at Miami, doubling up on the C's,versus Lakers, Knicks and Spurs and it's not much of a potential "rebound month."

Record prediction for February- 4 and 9.

March

As the NBA tends to do each year, the schedule goes "home game heavy" towards its conclusion for Toronto.

The team plays 10 of its 17 matches in March at home, and therefore perhaps the club can make like the Dinos of 2009, post Shawn Marion trade, going on a bit of a run as the season winds down, especially since the month starts with opponents like Golden State, Detroit and Milwaukee.

Unfortunately mixed in there are 10 matches against clubs that participated in the playoffs last year, and a few others who were close to making it.

With 11 wins heading into this month, it's hard to foresee a huge jump in record based on the March hand has been dealt.

Record prediction for March- 4 and 13.

April

If the club's record follows my prognostications to any degree, it will be heading into the final month of the season with a record of 15 and 37.

This would represent an improvement already over the previous year percentage-wise, but it's still nothing to write home about.

Toronto's final 10 games then would decide if the team could crack the 20 win plateau and with matches against Washington and Charlotte to kick off the month, as well as contests against the Timberwolves, Bucks, Pacers, Cavs and Nets, it's not out of the question.

There's no finishing match against the Heat this year (no, the Dinos take on the Nets at home) and really, the only matches that look like sure-fire losses are to OKC on April 8, Boston on April 13, and Miami on April 18. In fact Toronto was 2 and 0 against the Thunder last year so who knows, maybe a .500 month to end the year is within reach.

I'm going to err slightly on the pessimistic side however, especially with a home-and-home to Atlanta, a team that's always given Toronto problems, and a few "trap" games for what will likely be a weary Raptors' squad at this point in the year.

Record prediction for April- 6 and 8.

Final 2011-12 Record - 21 and 45

Now considering Toronto won only 22 of 82 games last season, should the team settle on a record near the above mark, I'd say that's a step in the right direction for the franchise, as it awaits some help from a future lottery pick as well as Jonas Valanciunas next season. It's pretty tough to do much accurate prediction at this point of course, considering how unsettled the league's rosters are, but improvements from folks like DeMar and Bayless, as well as hopefully a "Casey D effect," make that 21 and 45 mark attainable I'd argue.

However lots could go wrong of course, from injuries to some of the "duck" teams, beefing up via free agency over the next week or so, and this is admittedly a very simplistic form of analysis.

More telling may be this chart that Ben Golliver of Blazer's edge drew up.

From it you'll see that going on last year's win totals, Toronto is in tough even if they did miss out on drawing some of the powerhouse West teams twice and in the end, we'll just have to see how the games start to unfold before we can probably properly gauge how successful, or unsuccessful, the 2011-12 Toronto Raptors will be.

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