The non-conference update follows games pitting the Western Conference’s teams versus the East’s. This season, the West has often held a winning percentage so large it hasn’t been seen in over 50 years.
After going 8-20 in non-conference play from February 24 to March 2, the East bounced back to go 11-10 last week. Toronto moved to over .500 versus the West, joining Brooklyn, Miami, and Indiana in that somewhat special club since none of them are even at 20 wins yet. The conference’s winning percentage from February to now is quite respectable, though, at 46.4 percent. It’s put a dent in the West’s potential for a record-high in winning percentage, set in 2004 at 63.3 percent.
More on that and another potential record in a bit. Below is the updated week-by-week breakdown along with non-conference games left in each week:
For the West to surpass their winning percentage from 2004, they’ll have to finish the rest of the 57 non-conference games 40-17. That’s possible since 34 of them will be hosted by their teams, but it’s still more than a 70 percent win rate to pull off.
So with a record-high winning percentage unlikely to be accomplished, there’s another record worth looking for. All current playoff contenders out West have a shot at winning 20 non-conference games, something never accomplished by either conference. The closest calls came in 2005, when six playoff teams from the West won 20-plus and the other two (Houston and Memphis) won 18, and in 2010 when seven West teams had 19-plus wins while the one other playoff squad (Portland) finished with 17.
Right now, the top eight West teams all have at least 18 wins and no more than nine losses. Below is a table showing their non-conference records, as well as ninth place Phoenix’s:
Oklahoma City and Portland should be fine, even if the latter has been on a brutal downswing with or without LaMarcus Aldridge. The Clippers have to beat one of Milwaukee or Detroit left on their schedule, and all Dallas has to do is beat Boston tonight and they, too, are at the 20-win mark. Boston’s coming off last night’s loss to New Orleans in which Anthony Davis pulled off a 40-20 line, by the way. No big f’in deal or anything.
Golden State should beat Milwaukee and Orlando this week to reach 20 wins as well. The problems come from Memphis and Phoenix, and one of them will be in the playoffs unless Kevin Love goes 1962 Wilt Chamberlain until season’s end.
Memphis finishes their non-conference games April 11 at home against Philadelphia, but they’ll have two games against Miami before that happens and one versus Indiana. Two of those three against the East’s best come in a back-to-back this weekend. Not exactly ideal, though Indiana will be on the tail end of a back-to-back too when they face the Grizz, and their first opponent is Chicago. All of those games on Friday and Saturday have the potential to swing votes for All-NBA and All-Defensive teams, as well as who is Defensive Player of the Year.
In Memphis’ second game against the Heat, Miami will be on the tail end of a back-to-back after playing a Thursday night game versus Brooklyn. All the Grizzlies have to do is win one of those three games and then Philadelphia, but that’s easier said than done.
For Phoenix, they’d have to go 5-1 over their last six non-conference games, which is something they’ll probably have to do anyway if they want to make the playoffs. Goran Dragic is finally reunited with Eric Bledsoe again, but they’ll be finishing a back-to-back at Brooklyn tonight. After that, they’ll finish their East games over the next two weeks starting with Orlando and Detroit but finish with Atlanta, Washington, and New York. Worth mentioning is their sweep of Mount Hibbert and Indiana, by the way.
Every game matters for Memphis and Phoenix, and non-conference matchups have been often regarded as ways for West contenders to build winning streaks. Both teams will have to topple some East squads looking to rise in their own conference’s playoff seeding, however. By next week there should be a clearer picture on whether or not the West’s playoff hopefuls can all accomplish that 20-win feat, as well as if the conference as a whole is within reach of their highest winning percentage ever versus the East.