Two months ago, Basketball-Reference provided history of non-conference games in a really cool table, one that showed the West winning this year’s matchups at a frequency not seen in nearly 55 years, back when the league had “divisions”. A few weeks passed before I started a weekly update tracking the rest of the non-conference games.
The 15th week of the season featured the most active stretch of the East’s teams playing the West’s, 33 played total with each conference winning 10 at home. The West won eight on the road, though, while the East took just five. Below is the updated week-by-week breakdown:
The 45.5 percent win rate the East had last week would be solid over an entire season. That’s if they ever cared about non-conference statistics. It’s fine if they don’t, especially when the games have nowhere as much impact as they do for the West.
Indiana and Miami are still the only East teams to have 10 wins in non-conference play, but in Week 15 the conference as a whole blew some winnable games. The Cavs heard the thud that is rock-bottom after falling to the Lakers while the Heat sparked a search for a replacement to the term “coasting” after losing to Utah. Some suggestions: sailing, floating, drifting, and freewheeling. Heatwheeling?
As for the West, below is an updated breakdown of how many games each team has left against the East. It impacts both the playoff race and the lottery with the former benefiting from more non-conference games while the latter hopes for less. The more games the Jazz and Lakers play against West teams jousting for playoff seeding, the higher likelihood they’ll accumulate more lottery balls.
With DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isiah Thomas, it’s hard to believe Sacramento finishes as the worst team in the West. Recent injuries to the first two players hasn’t helped, but the Lakers are all sorts of banged up too. Utah’s wedged in between them with some nice pieces themselves.
As for the playoff teams and contenders, most are in that 9 to 12-game range against the East with Memphis and Golden State having some extras, which is huge when they’re both just trying to make the postseason versus deciding who they’d like to host in the first round. Meanwhile, the Clippers are running out of near-gimmes against the East but it’s right when Chris Paul is returning and Blake Griffin is making a case as the best power forward in the league. As usual, looking at non-conference games is helpful but remaining back-to-backs and home/away games are just as important too.
There’s also this thing called the trade deadline that’s creeping into front offices. Will a team out West grab Arron Afflalo? What about Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, or whatever else Detroit could look to trade? Cleveland’s another East team that could swap some players such as Dion Waiters or Anderson Varejao.
For the heck of it, though, below is Week 16’s non-conference schedule. There’s only three days of games but about as many will be played as any other random week:
The East has 10 home games compared to the West’s six. That’s also the amount of wins I think each conference could pull off, respectively, though a couple East teams always fail to win down the stretch.
Maybe this is the week they turn in a dominant performance, though slowly working towards a respectable winning percentage against the West is just as fine. It’s like I’ve felt that way all season about most of the East’s teams.
For the other non-conference posts, check this out.