The Stretch Run

This is it. ~20 games left for most teams, and the race for #2 is wide open. Of course, getting that #2 spot is as critical as ever; not only would it guarantee home court advantage for the first two rounds, it would ensure avoiding the Lakers until the WCF. At this point, there appear to be six legitimate contenders for the spot: San Antonio, Houston, Portland, Utah, New Orleans, and Denver.

Nor_medium Por_medium Sas_medium
Uth_medium Hou_medium Den_medium

Let's wade through some of the numbers. After the jump are a variety of tables, describing record, road/home splits, strength of competition, and some other things. Rather than put everything into one large table, I split the data into various smaller tables so that the teams could be arranged from largest to smallest according to each particular statistic. Also, make sure to catch Lee's recap from last night, below.

Current Records

Team

Games Back

Sas_medium

 

--

Den_medium

 

1.0

Nor_medium

 

2.0

Hou_medium

 

2.0

Uth_medium

 

2.5

Por_medium

 

2.5

Less than 3 games separate the teams, which is absolutely wild. With Ginobili currently hurt for the Spurs, their lead up top seems increasingly tenuous. Houston, New Orleans, and Utah have strung together long winning streaks, while Denver looks to increase its Northwest lead and guarantee itself a Top 4 seeding.

Games Remaining

Team

Games Remaining

Sas_medium

 

22

Nor_medium

 

22

Uth_medium

 

21
Por_medium

 

21

Den_medium

 

20

Hou_medium

 

20

Nothing too crazy here. Only a 2 game difference between the most games left and fewest games left, so it's not like one team will be facing enormous fatigue or anything.

Road/Home Remaining

Team

Road/Home Remaining

Uth_medium

 

13/8

Nor_medium

 

12/10

Hou_medium

 

10/10
Por_medium

 

10/11

Den_medium

 

9/11

Sas_medium

 

9/13

Utah will only get the friendly confines of the Energy Solutions Arena 8 more times, but still must travel to 13 more venues. On the flip side, the Spurs have things easy coming off their Rodeo trip.

Back to Backs Remaining

Team

B2B Remaining

Uth_medium

 

7

Nor_medium

 

4

Sas_medium

 

4
Por_medium

 

4

Den_medium

 

4

Hou_medium

 

3

More tough going ahead for Utah. It seems they also have the toughest schedule ahead in terms of off days (or lack thereof). They play 3 more B2B's than any of the other 5 teams. But Portland's 4 back to backs are much tougher than NOR's, DEN's, or SA's in that the four B2B's are split up into a pair of 4 games in 5 days. Of those cumulative 8 games, 7 are on the road as well. So they're in for a bit of a challenge in the B2B department.

Versus Themselves

Team

B2B Remaining

Uth_medium

 

@NOR, @SAS, @POR, DEN, @DEN, HOU

Nor_medium

 

UTA, SAS, @SAS, DEN, HOU, @HOU

Sas_medium

 

UTA, @NOR, NOR, POR, @HOU, HOU
Por_medium

 

UTA, @SAS, DEN, @HOU

Den_medium

 

@UTA, @NOR, @POR, HOU

Hou_medium

 

@UTA, @NOR, NOR, SAS, @SAS, POR, @DEN

Very interesting. Utah plays on the road against each of the other five, save Houston. Houston plays a combined 7 more games against the 5, while Portland and Denver have just 4 more on the slate.

Average Remaining Opponent Rating

This next one is probably the most important metric to look at. Think of it as a much better form of strength of schedule remaining. Basically, I took each teams' remaining opponents, found their 'Simple Rating System' value, available at B-R, added them all up, then divided by games left. It should be a fairly good indicator of how difficult the stretch run will be for the various teams.

To give some indication of what these values mean, here are a few examples: the league average team is 0. The league leading Cleveland Cavaliers are +9.36. The league worst Sacramento Kings are -8.85. The Hornets are +2.86, or 10th. The current best among these 6 teams is Portland at 3.55. Okay, enough reference, onto the table. A high positive value implies more difficulty, and a negative value implies an easier schedule.

Team

Opp. Remaining SRS

Hou_medium

 

+0.74

Uth_medium

 

+0.09

Por_medium

 

-0.265
Sas_medium

 

-0.357

Nor_medium

 

-1.22

Den_medium

 

-2.23

For starters, New Orleans and Denver have vastly easier schedules than the other four. In fact, DEN has the most dominatingly easy schedule among the bunch. A -2.23 rating would translate to playing a team a little worse than the Knicks every game for the rest of the season. The Hornets' -1.22 would translate to playing the Bobcats for 22 straight games.

Another important point is that no one team has a particularly "difficult" schedule. Houston's +.74 would be about equivalent to playing Dallas a bunch of times. Dallas would obviously be a much tougher matchup than, say, Charlotte, but overall, it's not as bad as it could have been. Not to keep piling on Utah, but all things considered, they have a tough road ahead. They don't have very many home games left, they play a relatively difficult schedule, and they've got 3 more B2B's than the closest competition.

The road for New Orleans looks good. I wouldn't say smooth, because there are some tough divisional matchups ahead. The positives: we do control our own destiny in the division, we have more or less the same number of B2B's as the other contenders, and we have quite an easy upcoming schedule.

Let the stretch run begin.

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