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Quirks of the C’s Schedule, Part I

The 2011 schedule is out. You can view Boston’s schedule here, and SB Nation has a handy list of all 30 NBA team schedules here

The first thing I look for when the schedule comes out is the number of back-to-backs Boston plays. The second end of a back-to-back is among the toughest games to win; several studies have shown that teams on the second night of a back-to-back have a winning percentage of about .430. That’s not good. 

Some good news: Boston has 19 back-to-backs next season, one more than last year and a number that places them in the bottom third of the league in back-to-backs. (The Bulls and Bucks have the most, with 23 each, and 14 teams have at least 21 back-to-backs, according to Basketball Prospectus. The Lakers have the fewest—just 15). 

Good news, right? An older team can use a few breaks from the schedule makers. 

But dig one level deeper, and the news isn’t quite as good.

Of Boston’s 19 back-to-backs, just four come against teams that will also be on the second end of their own back-to-back. It would stand to reason that some (or most) of the built-in disadvantage of playing for the second straight night disappears if you’re facing a team that also played the night before. 

In 2009, I was curious to see how often a team on the second end of a back-to-back ended up facing a team in the same situation. I found that for the ’09 season (and that season only) a team on the second end of a back-to-back had about a 50 percent chance of facing a team that had also played the night before. There was a huge level of variability, though, with some teams facing more well-rested teams than others. The 2009 Cavs and Heat had particularly bad luck, as just six of their 19 back-to-backs involved a second-night opponent that had also played the night before. 

The 2011 C’s will have even worse luck in this regard, as their opponent in 15 of their 19 second-night back-to-back games will have been idle the night before. 

I don’t know yet how far from average this split is, and whether the 50/50 split I found among Eastern Conference teams in 2009 has been typical since then. If anyone can find a site that breaks the schedule down like this—or if anyone knows how to do it in a quicker fashion than manually cross-checking each team’s schedule against those of their opponents—please let me know. 

This isn’t insignificant stuff. For instance: The C’s face the Hawks three times, and all three come on the second end of a back-to-back for the Celtics. And in all three instances, the Hawks won’t have played the night before. In other words: don’t be surprised if Atlanta sweeps Boston again.

  • LStrike

    3 2nd-end back-to-back games against a rested Hawks side this year… Ugh. :(

  • Jay P

    The NBA is fixed.

    (Sorry, had to do it.)

  • Perry

    Here’s hoping they can bust out to 6-0.

    Next four are on the road, which includes Ok. City, Miami, and Dallas over a five-day stretch.

    Thunder and Mavs are a back-to-back.

  • @Perry:Yup, Part II breaks down the schedule in that vein. No 23-5 start this season.

  • Mark

    Sorry, I know this isn’t the right forum but I’d like to nick name Shaq “The Big ShaGreen.”

    Now as far as the schedule and playing back-to-backs it maybe more important to see if there’s an increase in injuries are a result of the playing the second consecutive day of back-to-back games. Zach do you think the NBA should take a look at this question?

  • Jason

    Is there a reason why the season can’t start 4 weeks earlier and reduce the number of back to back games?

  • sacbobv

    @Jason:
    My thinking is that baseball is winding down and football is in swing reducing the NBA market share for viewers or game attendance.
    I will say the back to back schedule seems a little fixed and could use some fine tuning to sync the teams playing in a way a little more fair.

  • Steve

    This was the same thing with the Boston/Atlanta series last year. We were always coming off tough stretches of the schedule and they were always rested up.

  • Rajon9

    @Zach

    I hate it knowing that lakers have the fewest B2B games. Isn’t it like giving them the chance to win more games? Is that really the unfair advantage that one gets for being defending champs? Getting the fewest B2B?

    Isn’t it that they should be given the most B2B to really see how tough they are? NBA really su@ks sometimes.

  • @Rajon9: Boston had among the very fewest in the league last year and is toward the bottom again this year. No right to complain.

  • lakershater13

    Of course the league gives the lakers the least number of back to backs. Lets not let bynum play too many back to backs. He could get injured.

  • Jerry Buss

    LA had one of the highest numbers of b2b games last year, so it’s called evening things out this year.

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  • Childe Costa

    Excellen break down of schedule back-to-back info. Thanks