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A closer look at scheduling quirkiness

12/7/2011

The 66-game NBA schedule produced some unusual trends related to how this season, unique in NBA history, will play out.

Our researchers spent the past couple of days pouring through the list of games in an effort to find noteworthy tidbits.

Here’s what they found:

• The San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls play the longest road trips of the season -- nine games each -- both coming within the first two months of the season. The Denver Nuggets will play the latest lengthy road trip, a seven-gamer from March 23 to April 4.

• The Nuggets are also one of three teams that will have a nine-game homestand, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, those will be the first nine-game homestands in the NBA since the Vancouver Grizzlies had one during the 1999-2000 season.

• Also via Elias, the Kings will begin the season with seven straight games against teams that made last year’s playoffs (the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, New Orleans Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies and Nuggets). No other team will begin the season with more than five straight games against teams that made the playoffs last season.

Last 2 Abbreviated NBA Seasons

The schedule contains 42 instances of teams playing back-to-back-to-back games. No team has three such stretches, though a dozen teams will have to play back-to-back-to-back games twice.

That’s different from the 1998-1999 abbreviated season, which was much more grueling schedule-wise. That’s noted in the chart on the right.

• The Lakers will inaugurate the back-to-back-to-back run with games on each of the first three days of the season. Coincidentally, when the Lakers had their NBA-record 33-game win streak in the 1971-1972 season, that began with wins on three consecutive days- November 5 -7.

With a shortened season, who stands to benefit?

A look back at the 1998-1999 season showed the following trends.

• Each of the nine oldest teams (using their average age at the end of the regular season) made the playoffs.

• The four oldest teams at the end of the season were the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference (the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic who all had the same record) and the top seed in the West (San Antonio Spurs).

• The exception to the “older was better” mantra was the Portland Trail Blazers who finished as the No. 3 seed in the West despite being the eighth-youngest team.

The other point of interest from the previous strike-shortened season that bears watching is the performance of teams in back-to-back games.

• In 1998-1999, three of the four oldest teams in the NBA-- the Spurs, Magic and Pacers-- finished tied for the best record in their respective conferences. However, all three struggled when playing the day after playing a game. The Spurs were 7-10 without rest, the Magic and Pacers were 6-11.

• On the other end of the spectrum were the Boston Celtics, who finished with an unimpressive 19-31 mark that year. However, they were 15-5 on no rest, the second-best record in the NBA.

We don't yet know who the youngest and oldest teams in the league will be, but their performances within this scheduling will be something noteworthy to watch in 2011-2012.