After some breadcrumbs here and there about the 2023–24 NBA schedule, today the league put out dates for every game. The Bucks even produced a neat Milwaukee-themed video including some key dates with a weird tie-in for some random champagne called “Baller” (with a name like that, count me as a hard no on sampling their product):
The actual schedule is live on the Bucks’ website. Before wading into the weeds of the in-season tournament that looks very silly, let’s look over some important stretches:
- As we know, the Bucks will kick off the year for the second season in a row against the Sixers (and whoever is in their backcourt) and unlike last year, they’ll be at home on Thursday, October 26 at 6:30 CDT in a nationally-televised matchup on TNT. Due to the FIBA World Cup, the NBA pushed back their usual mid-October start a week or so to late October, though the season still ends at its usual April midpoint, and the season doesn’t seem too scrunched to me.
- Their first back-to-back comes just two days later at home against Atlanta and Miami, the latter of which should hopefully have the squad motivated after the spring’s disappointment.
- In November, for two weeks in a row they’ll be playing five games in seven days. There are two home-road back-to-backs in that stretch. They’ll also play five in seven twice in January and again in February, right before the All-Star break.
- As we also knew, the Bucks will play the Knicks on Christmas Day at Madison Square Garden. What we didn’t know before is that Giannis and Co. will get to spend more than just Christmas in New York, because they’ll play their only other road game in The Big Apple two days prior on December 23rd (Happy Festivus).
- Furthermore, they play the Nets at Barclays Center on the 27th, so a good five days hanging in NYC with three games as part of a six-day East road trip that only actually covers two cities (Cleveland being the other on the 29th) before they return home to face the Pacers on New Year’s Day.
- Their first road trip through the Western Conference spans the calendar between January in February, beginning at Denver to grapple with the reigning champs before heading through Dallas, Salt Lake (those two are back-to-back), and Phoenix.
- Their West Coast road trip comes in early March, hitting up all four California franchises in the span of seven days.
- They’ll also draw the Clippers at home right before they leave for that, so in one week they’ll play them twice, with the Warriors and Lakers in between followed by the Kings, but thankfully none of these are back-to-backs.
If you ask me, the schedule seems a bit front-loaded, which might be by design. Indeed, there are sixteen games in November. Some other general notes on the schedule:
- Their longest road trip is six games from December 11–21.
- Their longest home stand is five games from January 29–February 6.
- There are fourteen back-to-backs and by my count, three of those are on the road while seven are at home, meaning three home-road back-to-backs (not bad at all).
- Those quick turnarounds will involve flights to Milwaukee from Charlotte, Boston, and Memphis, all of which aren’t more than two hours or so.
- The longest distance they’ll cover on a road back-to-back is the aforementioned Dallas to Utah, slightly longer than Indiana to San Antonio a month prior and much longer than Charlotte to Chicago as February concludes.
- They’re currently scheduled nationally on ESPN or TNT (I’m not including NBATV as a national broadcast since so few cable providers carry it) nineteen times, including Sunday road matinees at the Sixers (seems like one of those happens every year), the Clippers, and the Magic, plus one at Fiserv versus the Suns (like last year, except not on the road).
- Notable West stars coming to Milwaukee for their one appearance of the season (unless injured/load-managed): Luka Doncic (and Jason Kidd) on November 18th, Victor Wembanyama on December 19th, Steph Curry on January 13th, Nikola Jokic on February 12th, Kawhi Leonard/Paul George (it could happen) on March 4th, Kevin Durant/Devin Booker on March 17th (St. Patty’s Day with those two?), LeBron James on March 26th, and Ja Morant on April 3rd.
The three games leading into the All-Star break look like a doozy: first a home back-to-back hosting last year’s two conference champions before heading south to Memphis before a week off. They also have the Celtics and Warriors visiting with a day in between starting January 11th, with a back-to-back against the Kings on tap once the Dubs leave town. In March, they have three title hopefuls in a row on the docket upon coming back from their second Western road trip, with Philly and Phoenix in town before they head to Boston. Finally, they’ll face Boston and the Knicks at home during the last week of the season in what look like contests that might have seeding implications.
Those plus the five consecutive faceoffs with California teams that I mentioned above look to me like the toughest stretches on the calendar. Right after that California trip comes Sixers, Suns, and Celtics. Seems like the first three weeks of March will be the season’s highest degree of difficulty, which is likely how the NBA wants it, scheduling marquee games one after another.
Depending on how you feel about Memphis and Sacramento, that’s four periods of three consecutive games against a top contender:
- January 11th–14th versus the Celticcs, Warriors, and Kings (all at home)
- February 12th–15 versus the Nuggets, Heat, and Grizzlies (home, home, away)
- March 4th–12th versus the Clippers, Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, and Kings (home, then the next four away)
- March 14th–20th versus the Sixers, Suns, and Celtics (home, home, away)
Other than those groupings, it’s kind of hard to pick out which stretches will be super difficult as of now, mainly because some teams that don’t look threatening right now may come on strong out of the gates (think last year’s Jazz or Pacers) and make a slate of games harder than it currently appears.
Also, we have the whole in-season tournament thing. The group play stages of that occur on these dates for the Bucks:
- November 3rd versus the Knicks
- November 17th at the Hornets
- November 24th versus the Wizards
- November 28th at the Heat
These are normal regular season games that count in the standings as any game does, but they also will determine if the Bucks partake in the tournament during the week of December 4th. That means no games are scheduled that week as of right now, because they’ll be determined by what happens in group play. Regardless of whether they’re in the tournament or not, they’ll have two games scheduled that week against... somebody. They’ll still be regular-season games, they just might be in Vegas for this tournament deal. They could even have an 83rd regular season game. If they’re not in the tournament’s eight-team field, they’ll have one more home game and one more on the road inserted into their schedule during that week. So yes, that means only 80 games are currently scheduled.
Finally, I always like to keep track of which conference opponents the Bucks will be seeing four times rather than three. As is always the case, every team plays its division rivals four times (two at home and two away) so we already knew about a quartet against Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Indiana. However, of the ten other teams in the East, here are the teams they’ll spar with for a pair of home and road games:
- New York
So only three tilts with Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Brooklyn, Philly, and Toronto currently, but with two games yet to be added to the schedule, odds are they’ll be against two of those teams if they aren’t in the knockout stage. Since eight teams make that field, 22 will be playing non-tournament games while that business happens in Vegas. The NBA stated that a pair of interconference matchups will occur since there will be eleven teams in each conference who aren’t in the knockout stages. The Bucks currently have all fifteen Western Conference teams currently on their schedule, so it seems likely they’ll play an Eastern opponent if they’re not in the tournament, lest the NBA is having some teams play three times versus an opponent from the opposite conference.
The good news is that currently two of their matchups with the Heat are at home, ditto for their matchups with the Sixers and Hawks. They’ll have two road games in Toronto, Washington, and Brooklyn with potentially just one at home versus those squads. We’ll have to see how the tournament works out and if one of those three will have an extra date in Milwaukee.
Whew! That’s more info about the schedule than you probably needed, but I think it’s all pretty relevant. As of today, August 17th, I’m liking this for the Bucks. The road trips aren’t too crazy, most of their back-to-backs are at home, and the ones on the road don’t look too difficult. What say you?