Some Interesting NBA data

An emailer asked about scheduling in the NBA. Another suggested that in any given year there are are teams that benefit greatly and others that are negatively impacted by the number of back to backs and 4 games in 5 nights that they play, and possibly more importantly, how many of their opponent’s games are on the 2nd game of a back to back or 5th day of a 4 games in 5 night stretch.

So for those of us that were curious, here is the data for this year through last friday

own

b to b

opp

b 2 b


own

4 in 5

Team opp 4 in 5
Hawks 1 18 16 3 2
Celtics 2 13 14 0 3
Bobcats 3 15 14 2 3
Bulls 4 18 16 2 3
Cavaliers 5 14 12 3 4
Mavericks 6 12 13 1 1
Nuggets 7 17 15 3 0
Pistons 8 10 4 2 0
Warriors 9 11 11 2 0
Rockets 10 17 19 3 2
Pacers 11 17 15 2 2
Clippers 12 15 22 2 1
Lakers 13 15 7 1 0
Grizzlies 14 15 11 1 2
Heat 15 13 13 0 2
Bucks 16 19 21 3 3
Timberwolves 17 17 13 1 1
Nets 18 18 18 1 3
Hornets 19 15 23 1 3
Knicks 20 11 13 0 4
Thunder 21 14 13 2 1
Magic 22 11 16 1 1
76ers 23 15 13 2 1
Suns 24 15 16 2 3
Blazers 25 12 17 1 2
Kings 26 18 11 3 0
Spurs 27 14 17 1 0
Raptors 28 12 9 1 0
Jazz 29 14 20 2 3
Wizards 30 13 16 3 1

34 thoughts on “Some Interesting NBA data

  1. Hey guys, I did some analysis of the 95/96 season (the only season I could get numbers for) you can read about it here: http://www.codingonthetrain.com/2009/04/nba-data-analysis.html . Basically teams teams playing in back-to-back games won about 7% less games then when they had a day of rest before hand.

    Comment by Brian Willard -

  2. thank you…

    Comment by halimbaba -

  3. Siteniz gayat başarılı tebrikler…

    Comment by halim -

  4. I work for the Hawks. March is running me ragged!!!

    Comment by Ashley -

  5. Forgot to add:

    The Lakers have a back to back on the 7th game of a road trip comming up in Milwaukee on April 1.

    Comment by jimmy -

  6. Mike, how did you come up with the rating of easiest to hardest schedule. How can the Kings have an easy schedule when they play 3 times (4th game in 5 nights) and have 0 opponents and play 18 back to backs and only play 11 opponents on their back to back. Wouldn’t they have a tough schedule? That would give them a minus not a plus. Not sure how you came up with that list.

    Comment by josh -

  7. I love seeing this type of information about the NBA! Along these same lines, the below is a very cool article about how some NBA teams are using statistics in a very different way. Mark – I’m sure this is something that the Mavs have been doing for years – but really interesting stuff!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/magazine/15Battier-t.html

    Comment by Michele -

  8. Mike, since a 4-in-5 necessarily contains two back-to-backs (in most seasons, no team plays games on three or more consecutive nights), you’ve actually counted the 4-in-5 blocks around five times as much as back-to-backs. It might be a little less, if there are any 6-in-8 blocks. Those are probably pretty rare, though.

    My advice would be to just add the differentials, without multiplying the 4-in-5 blocks by 3 first, if you want to weight them by a 3-to-1 ratio.

    Comment by Brian Tung -

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  10. The first game of a back to back is irrelevant. It’s the second game that matters. A home game that is the second of a back to back could nullify home court advantage unless the opponent is playing the second half of a back to back as well.

    Points have been made about the Jazz getting a lot of playoff teams on back to backs. They also play 17 games on the road which are the second game of back to backs (they’re 3 and 9 so far), including 10 playoff teams. When you combine these two pieces of data, it explains the huge disparity in their home and away record. Maybe the schedulers feel like it all averages out that way.

    They won games at home vs. Phoenix and Houston, but they have to play both of those teams as well as Portland twice in back to backs on the road. In the race out west, one or two games could make a big difference in playoff position. They also go to LA on a back to back the last game of the season. LA may have already shut things down, giving Utah a chance to steal one they couldn’t hope to win otherwise.

    It would be nice to see an analysis at the end of the season that includes win loss data as well as opponent ranking.

    Comment by Ken -

  11. What’s the point of doing this chart through a mid-season date?

    Has to be full-season for multiple years to have any value.

    Comment by Mikey -

  12. Would be intersting to see such stat over the last couple of years.

    Comment by Alan -

  13. Thanks for this prompt and interesting stat, Mark.

    You wrote about the impact of back-to-backs in 2005 (http://blogmaverick.com/2005/12/21/back-to-backs-in-the-nba/). One of the main thoughts in this article is:

    “In other words, the best teams are still good, but on the 2nd game of back to back, particularly on the road, they become much
    closer to average. Making them beatable.”

    The mere number of back-to-back games and opponents is inztersting, but evaluate the real impact of the scheduling, it would be intersting to know, a) how many games one team has at home against teams coming on a back-to-back schedule b) and how many of the back-to-back games are against “good teams”.

    I was asking this becuase I realized that the Jazz won a lot of homegames against playoff contenders, that were on the second night of back-to-back games:

    - March 6 win against Denver
    - March 4, win against Houston
    - Feb 11, win against the Lakers
    - Feb 21 win vs. NOH
    - Feb 5, win against the Mavs
    - January 10, Utah defeats the Pistons
    - January 12, Utah defends Indiana
    - January 7, Utah defeats NOH
    - Dec. 26, Utah defeats Dallas
    - Nov 17, Utah defeats Phx
    - Nov 19, Utah defeats the Bucks

    For a good team coming on the second night of a back-to-back schedule to Utah , it is particularily hard to win. This explains Utahs amazing record at home against good teams.

    As someone else mentioned ealier, Utah is a physical team so they might benefit more of tiered legs of the opponent not being able to match the physical play. Altitude and time-zone may affect this as well.

    Would be intersting to see t

    Comment by Alan -

  14. As a Laker fan (bias should be disclosed), I have done an analysis of the Laker and Celtic schedules this year, because it was reasonable to assume that these two teams would fight for the leagues best record. You would think they would have roughly equal schedules. The result is very revealing.

    According to my figures, (assuming I didn’t miss anything going over the schedules):

    - Boston plays 10 back to backs with the second game on the road, the Lakers 16.

    - For these road b to b games, opponent strength favors Boston.

    The Lakers play includes games at Boston, New Orleans (twice), San Antonio (twice), Denver, Orlando, Utah, Portland and Golden State (twice – always tough there). This includes games against 5 of the current 6 division leaders.

    Boston has Orlando, Dallas and Denver, Golden State. The rest are Indiana, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Charlotte, New York, and Memphis.

    - The Lakers have 3 road trips of 4 or more games (4, 6 and 7), Boston 2 (4 and 6).

    - Boston’s 6 game road trip is broken up by a 7 day vacation at the all-star break after the second game.

    - Boston only plays two back to back games after the 2nd game on a road trip, at Oklahoma City on the 3rd game of a trip, and at Denver on the 5th game of a trip (but only the 2nd game after the 7 day all-star break).

    The Lakers have 3, at New Orleans (4th game), at Boston (5th game) and at San Antonio (3rd game).

    Overall, I think Boston would have at least 5 more losses if the schedules were reversed.

    Did the NBA want the title to have to run through Boston?

    Comment by jimmy -

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  16. Disregard my earlier post. This is measuring what is should be measuring – namely if a team is on the second game of a back to back, whether they are also playing an opponent who is on the second game of a back to back.

    My bad.

    Comment by Pinky -

  17. Looks like this needs more detailed comparisons, matching up 2nd game B to B vs opponents’ 2nd game B to B, 1st game B to B vs opponents’ 2nd game B to B, as well as all the permutations of those against the back end of a 4 of 5 stretch, and then the front end of a 4 of 5 stretch vs opponents’ back end of a 4 of 5 stretch.

    Comment by Pinky -

  18. Interesting that the chart is totally wrong. Utah plays 20 back to backs. I am sure that other teams are wrong as well, but that is the only one I checked. At least publish credible information.

    Comment by Brandon -

  19. It would be nice to see the breakdown per game showing the actual W/L result. Then we can run this against prior years to see if there is an actual trend. Submitting five years worth of detailed data to Stern/NBA, if it shows an advantage/disadvantage, should provide ammunition for change.

    Comment by econ365 -

  20. I counted this all up, assuming that a 4-in-5 was 3 times as damaging as a single back-to-back. The easiest schedule belongs to the Clippers, with 7 fewer back-to-backs than their opponents, and 1 fewer 4-in-5, for a total of 7+(1*3) = 10. On the other end of the spectrum is the Knicks, with two fewer back-to-backs than their opponents, but a whopping 4 more 4-in-5′s, for a total of -10.

    Here is the full list, easiest schedules on top:

    Team TOTAL
    Clippers 10
    Wizards 9
    Nuggets 7
    Warriors 6
    Spurs 6
    Rockets 5
    Magic 5
    Jazz 3
    Bucks 2
    Hornets 2
    Thunder 2
    Blazers 2
    Kings 2
    Hawks 1
    Mavericks 1
    76ers 1
    Pistons 0
    Raptors 0
    Pacers -2
    Suns -2
    Bobcats -4
    Timberwolves -4
    Bulls -5
    Cavaliers -5
    Lakers -5
    Heat -6
    Nets -6
    Grizzlies -7
    Celtics -8
    Knicks -10

    Comment by Mike -

  21. This data isn’t even correct. I just looked at the Lakers schedule and counted the number of back to back games and it is 19. Yet this data claims they only have 15–I thought maybe it was just UTD stats because the Lakers have played 15 b2b so far but–I then looked at the Pistons schedule, as this data claims they only have 10 b2b games, and again, the data is wrong. I counted 15 b2b games for the Pistons. They have already played 11 b2bs so far this season.

    Why is this data wrong? Be aware people, I suggest to everyone to double-check their teams schedules and see if the numbers match, from what I’ve gathered, this information is useless.


    from mc> the data was through the friday before the post

    Comment by Joe -

  22. I would be more interested in seeing how many games the teammates opponent is on their 2nd game of the b2b. To me that is more advantageous because playing them the 1st game of a b2b doesn’t really mean anything whereas getting your opponent on the 2nd game of a b2b means they will most likely be tired and that’s where the advantage comes in.

    I posted something along these lines earlier and came back to see if anyone had commented and my post had disappeared. Anyone know why that would be?

    Comment by Joe -

  23. Travel would also make a difference, but I have no idea how it plays out in bball. In the NHL typically the teams in the NW division (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary) can be counted on to lose a couple points a year due to travel. East coast teams benefit the most, in particular the Boston to Was metro area teams.

    It also affects fatigue in the playoffs.

    Comment by rsm -

  24. I’d argue, teams who play the toughest schedules should be the most prepared for Playoffs.

    Comment by Alan -

  25. Interesting that for all the “conspiracy” talk surrounding the Lakers, they appear to be one of the teams who is getting the shortest end of this particular stick.

    Comment by WildYams -

  26. Do time zones and time of games make a difference too?

    Comment by deb -

  27. If everybody was like Cuban, well .. I’d like to see that world

    Comment by David -

  28. looks like sacramento has most disadvantageous scheduling overall. maloofs should bitch more a la cuban

    Comment by roland torres -

  29. I can’t decide which fascinates me more:

    - The way Utah obviously benefits from tired teams playing against them, with their rough style and the altitude also working in their favor.

    - The way the Knicks and Clippers completely squander that benefit.

    Comment by JD -

  30. Mark,

    Why doesn’t Comcast or DirecTV offer NBA pay per view along with League Pass? Many times local channels block out NBA for hockey or something else. With pay per view fans could still watch their favorite teams & marquee matchups without having to purchase a subscription. Is the price to carry live NBA games via pay per view not worth the additional revenue?

    Comment by Darryl -

  31. I was just talking about this! The subject came up because the Cavs were playing Miami twice within a week and both games had the Cavs on a back to back. The first game was the 4th in 5 for the Cavs. Since the Cavs won both the disadvantage wasn’t that much, but you could make the argument that some teams have it easier than others.

    Comment by Theresa -

  32. In case anyone wants to play with the data, feel free to copy this spreadsheet. It captures averages and highlights teams with an overall “advantage” or “disadvantage” in b2b or 4/5. The second tab is current standings if you’d like to try to find a comparison.

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pmOs6V1y43MZns5maY0T6UQ

    Comment by Adam -

  33. I am stumped by this chart. Any else stumped? Are your headers misaligned?

    Comment by Mike -

  34. Is there a breakdown for back-to-backs on the road versus at home?

    Comment by Brian Yennie -

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