Following the release of the preseason schedule a week ago, the Indiana Pacers have unveiled the entire First Half of their 2020-21 regular season schedule, featuring 38 games from December 22, 2020 through March 4, 2021. After an All-Star break to follow, the league plans to resume a Second Half schedule played through May in an effort to complete a 72-game regular season and will be revealed at a later date.
The three preseason games will take place from December 12-18, featuring a pair of games at the Cleveland Cavaliers (including a Fox Sports Indiana airing on December 12) before wrapping up against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 18th. The regular season will tip five days later, as the Pacers host the New York Knicks on December 23 for the first of five games before the New Year.
The league’s plan to reduce travel will break up the First Half into four home and road heavy sections, starting with seven of the first nine games taking place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After a home game against the Phoenix Suns, the Pacers will hit the West Coast for five games from January 11-17, featuring two of Indiana’s seven back-to-backs.
After that, Indiana will return home for eight of 11 before wrapping up the First Half with 10 of 14 on the road, only traveling West once in that stretch for a pair of games at Minnesota and Houston. That two game swing, in addition to the five game West Coast trip, make up for seven of Indiana’s eight games at Western Conference cities, the last (well, first) coming against New Orleans on January 4.
One wrinkle in the schedule this season is the addition of two-game series against teams to reduce travel, but it’s far less prevalent within the schedule than perhaps initially thought. The Pacers will host the Boston Celtics on December 27 & 29, the Toronto Raptors on January 24 & 25, and travel to face the Charlotte Hornets on January 27 & 29 to make up the only such series on Indiana’s First Half schedule.
The first six games of Indiana’s schedule feature four games against Eastern Conference teams that missed the playoffs, including New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. The back-to-back early against Boston will be difficult, but the Pacers will have a chance to find their legs early before a tough nine-game stretch against Western Conference teams, starting with the aforementioned in New Orleans.
On the West Coast trip, the Pacers will start with a back-to-back against Sacramento and Golden State, face Portland with a day off, and then finish up on another back-to-back against Phoenix and the LA Clippers. With home games against against Houston, Phoenix, and Dallas to round it out, it will be a crucial stretch for Indiana should they hope to fight for home court advantage in the East.
After the home/away series against Toronto and Charlotte, the Pacers will be faced with another tough (albeit home heavy) stretch against Philadelphia, Memphis, New Orleans, and Utah, with road games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. After that, things soften up a bit for Indiana just in time for them to finish out the First Half on the road, but will be have to contend with potentially improved teams like Atlanta, Minnesota, and San Antonio in the process.
Some notable games in the First Half, bolded are nationally televised:
- vs. Boston Celtics, December 27 & 29
- at New Orleans Pelicans, January 4 and vs. New Orleans, February 5
- vs. Phoenix Suns, January 9 and at Phoenix, January 16
- at Golden State Warriors, January 12 on NBA TV and vs. Golden State, February 24
- at Los Angeles Clippers, January 17 on NBA TV
- vs. Dallas Mavericks, January 20
- vs. Toronto Raptors, January 24 on NBA TV and January 25
- vs. Philadelphia 76ers, January 31 ad at Philadelphia, March 1
- at Milwaukee Bucks, February 3 on ESPN
- at Brooklyn Nets, February 10
- vs. San Antonio Spurs, February 22 on NBA TV
- at Boston Celtics, February 26 on ESPN
- vs. Denver Nuggets, March 4
While the schedule itself has been released, it’s hardly set in stone. The league will face new challenges this season combating the unrestrained pandemic within the United States, including forcing the Raptors to play their games in Tampa, Florida. As it stands, even the anticipated matchups may not go as planned, as the league will require asymptomatic players who test positive to sit for 10 days, which will be upwards to 6-7 games.
Both MLB and NFL were faced with early issues of game cancellations and rescheduling, but opted to kind of plow through as the season progressed regardless of the severity of team outbreaks. The NBA appears to be taking this into account with the upcoming Second Half schedule, which will create easier rescheduling opportunities should games have to be postponed due to outbreaks, in hopes the virus will be better contained through vaccines by spring.