Tag Archives: Atlanta Hawks

East vs. West Week 8: So close, and how this season stacks up with the last 44

Week 8 was another close call for the West, finishing .500 at 11-11 and continuing their possibly never-ending streak of finishing weeks at that mark or better. However, it was the first week the West recorded a negative point differential (only -0.18, but still). I think Atlanta’s victory over Houston was the most impressive Week 8 game for the East, but take a look at the scores for yourself and the non-conference summary below.


Seems like the West is cooling off, and with about one-third of non-conference games already concluded, I looked at how this year’s stats measure up against those since 1971. I chose that year as the cutoff since conferences were called divisions before that, and it’s also the cutoff I used in posts like this one.

Stats I looked at were:

  • Point Differential: This is where 2014 separated itself from previous seasons.
  • West PPG/East PPG: This kind of adjusts for high and low scoring games. A 70-60 victory may or may not be more dominant than 130-120.
  • Win Percentage
  • Pythagorean Win Difference: The West’s real record is better than their Pyth one. How unusual is this?
  • Pythagorean Win% Difference

In the future, I’ll look at different stats instead of repeating myself over and over.

So the West currently holds a point differential of +4.06, just short of 2014’s mark but still more than good enough to make the top 10:


Ew, vertical screenshots (there’s a lot of them in this post)

As noted in some other posts, 1972 just wasn’t fair. Milwaukee, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, were new to the Western Conference and it kind of sort of had a huge impact on non-conference statistics. For 2015, there are still about two-thirds of the non-conference schedule to play out, so there’s plenty of room for the West to either pad their point differential or for the East to continue putting a dent into it like they have over the last two weeks.

Also, long live the 1998 East!

Adjusting for high and low-scoring seasons, I also divided the West points by East points and vice versa to find the 10 highest percentages:


2014 and 2015 are more close to 1972 according to PD%, and 2015 is oh so close to the best of the last 15 seasons. Kind of crazy that seven seasons since 2000 make the top 10.

When it comes to win percentage, though, 2015 takes the cake. At least so far:


2014 was so close to topping the list before falling just short. I guess we’ll see if the 2015 West continues fizzling or comes back strong over the next four months (yes, there are still about four months to go).

When looking at how the West’s real win percentage stacks up against their Pythagorean one, 2015 isn’t too unique. According to point differential, the West has performed 1.8 wins better than expected, which is just above average when applying that amount for every ~150 games. From 1971 to 2014 (not including 1999), the average win difference is 4.8.

The difference in win percentage isn’t anything special either, and I’m not sure but maybe it’s a better measurement right now? The West’s real win% is 1.13 percent better than their Pythagorean one, and the average is about 1.33.

Below is look at the top 10 win% and win differences:


I suppose it’s worth diving into whether or not the West has had a cake non-conference schedule so far, or not, and has been either taking advantage of an easy schedule or performing strong against a, well, stronger-than-average non-conference schedule (edit: Easy schedule meaning rest advantages, etc.). Maybe in Week 9’s roundup I’ll look into that, and some other things. Maybe.

Below are the non-conference games this week, a smaller slate thanks to the holidays:


Enjoy the week! Maybe this is the one where the East goes over .500 for the first time. In the meantime, I’ll be ordering some holiday ham off Amazon.

East vs. West Week 4: Here we go again

In Week 2’s non-conference roundup, I noted that last year’s Western Conference began their dominance in weeks 3 through 7. They went 69-23 during that stretch.


With an 18-3 record and a +10.9 point differential versus the East, last week was arguably the West’s third most impressive since starting these posts. In weeks 3 and 7 last season, the West went 13-1 with a +13.14 point differential and 16-2 with a +10.00 point differential, respectively.

There could a case for last week to be ranked higher. The West went 18-for-21 despite 19 of the games featuring their team going off zero or one day of rest compared to 13 occurrences for the East, plus nine games where an East team had a rest advantage of one day or more. The East also had five more home games with a 13-8 edge.

The issue came, as you might’ve guessed, with talent. Using SRS as one measure, at the time of 15 of the 21 games, the West team had a higher mark, per Basketball-Reference. The West won 14 of those games, their only loss when Chicago defeated the Clippers without Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol. It was a hell of a victory for the Bulls and ended what was a struggle of a Monday for the East. The Lakers won in Atlanta the next day, the West went 5-1 on Wednesday, Sacramento and the Clippers took advantage of some missing players on Chicago and Miami’s squads in their TNT games, and the weekend was quite ugly. The West went 6-1 from Friday to Sunday and outscored opponents by a total of 100 points. Ew.

I’m not sure it gets that much better for the East. Check out what matchups take place in Week 5:


The East has another five-game advantage at home, but as usual the West has some heavy hitters. Golden State and Dallas each play four non-conference games while the Clippers, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, and San Antonio play two each. For the East, most frequently on the menu-I-MEAN-SCHEDULE is Charlotte, New York, and Toronto. Chicago, Detroit, Indiana, Orlando, and Philadelphia combine for eight other games. For the most part, that’s not great.

Some other bad news for the East might be that Houston, without Dwight Howard, does not play another non-conference game for another month after Monday’s matchup versus New York. Minnesota, not doing too hot without Ricky Rubio, among others, is also on a bit of a non-conference break. They play their next non-conference game on December 3 (Week 6) before playing a bunch of East foes in Week 8. The East will avoid Memphis for a while, though, so at least they won’t match up against one juggernaut.

But a few more are looking to feast. Last season, much of the West took advantage of road trips out East and against those traveling on west coast trips. Let’s see if it also continues to be the case this season.

Potential playoff upsets with SRS

Six of the eight first round matchups are extending to at least six games for the first time since the best-of-seven format started in 2003. To me, none of those series have felt like a slogfest either. We might even see a few upsets, starting tonight with both the eighth-seeded Hawks and seventh-seeded Grizzlies hosting Game 6’s with 3-2 leads.

Looking at where each of those teams were seeded, those would be huge wins for Atlanta and Memphis if they can pull them off, but if we look at how they match up in regular season SRS with Indiana and Oklahoma City, respectively, sealing their first round series tonight (or in a Game 7) would be arguably even more impressive.

SRS, or shortened for Simple Rating System, combines margin of victory and strength of schedule. As you’ll see below, it has its drawbacks since it doesn’t exactly value records that help determine seeding, but it’s easily understandable and often does enough to show how good teams were for 82 games. For more of an explanation, check this out, but it might also help to say that the best SRS in league history, according to Basketball-Reference, comes from the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks at 11.91, narrowly beating out the 11.80 from the ’96 Chicago Bulls. The worst goes to the 1993 Dallas Mavericks at -14.68 while the average SRS is 0, though no team has ever actually achieved that exact rating.

To go back to the playoffs, from 2003 to 2013, the team with the higher SRS in their first round series has advanced 79.6 percent of the time, or about the same rate as teams with the higher seed at 78.4 percent. Teams with both the higher SRS and the higher seed (75 occurrences) won 84 percent of their matchups. (Edit: Washington, with an SRS .72 points less than Chicago, advanced Tuesday night and Portland, .62 points less than Houston, can advance tomorrow.)

The higher the difference in SRS with home court, the higher the likelihood a team will win a series, which makes it all the more interesting that Atlanta (SRS: -0.88) and Memphis (2.18) can each clinch tonight. Each of theirs are at least four points lower than Indiana (3.63) and Oklahoma City (6.66) and are in two of five matchups this postseason with that large of a difference or more.

Below are the others with Hawks-Pacers and Grizzlies-Thunder included:

I’ve been fiddling with the SRS of every matchup since 1984, when the league went to their current playoff format 30 years ago. The scenario this season’s Hawks, Grizzlies, and the other three teams are in – an SRS at least four points worse than their opponent and without home court advantage – has often made for a heck of an uphill battle.

Below is a round-by-round look at how teams, ones in those same situations as this year’s previously listed five teams, have performed over the last 30 seasons:

The Charlotte Bobcats will join the list of those that couldn’t overcome their disadvantages, but Atlanta and Memphis have two outs while Brooklyn and Dallas can still extend their season with victories at home tomorrow night.

As for the table above (for the series wins, click here) the only win in the second round came last postseason when Memphis (3.69) beat the Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder (9.15). Another weird one came in 2001 when the Los Angeles Lakers (3.13) had an SRS 4.18 points lower than San Antonio in the Conference Finals. Going by SRS, those Lakers were an underdog in every round except for the NBA Finals, when they were 0.11 points higher than the 76ers. They ended up having the most dominant postseason run of all time, according to Neil Paine but most likely tons of others, too.

2013 featured two upsets meeting this post’s requirements, though 1995 has the most ever with three. This postseason definitely has a chance of matching either 2013 or 1995, but they could also surpass them both with four or more. With all that’s happened the last two weeks, would it really be that surprising if that happened?

Also (!!), I haven’t posted lately because of a high fever at first, but I then made my debut at the Washington Post‘s Fancy Stats. If the Hawks’ three-point shooting has stood out to you, check out my post on how they’ve taken more threes than free throws and how unique their starting five is.

Any other thoughts are welcome.

East vs West Week 21: Two records still alive for West

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.

One week after going under .500 in non-conference play, the Western Conference dominated the East in the 21st week of the season, finishing 21-6. Miami and Indiana finished a combined 1-2 but Brooklyn, 16-11 against the West, has become a third team out East to perform well in non-conference games. The first round of East matchups might be a dud, but the second round should be terrific.

Out West, the Lakers have become the worst team in non-conference play at 11-17, one game behind Utah. Overall, they have the same record with both having won their last game. Boston has leapfrogged them both for fourth place in the lottery.

Anyway, below is an updated week-by-week breakdown of non-conference wins and losses:

The West’s best results since week 5, 7 and 19, keeps two records in reach:

The West’s record-high in non-conference winning percentage, set at 63.3 percent in 2004

I mention this one in pretty much every post, but it was in doubt even after starting the first half of the season by winning two-thirds of their games against the East. The West will have to finish at least 19-11 over the last four weeks. Each conference has 15 of those games at home.

Every playoff team out West recording 20 non-conference wins

Mentioned in my last non-conference post. Every team in the top eight but Memphis has already hit that 20-win mark. The Grizzlies, 19-9 versus the East, have one game left against Miami but also face Philadelphia. The real risk comes from Phoenix, now 17-10 with the Hawks, Wizards, and Knicks on their schedule this week. The Suns are currently on a three-game winning streak, so maybe they’ll build on it and find their way back into the top eight in the West.

Aaaand as improved as the East has been over the past couple months, games against them are still looked at as a way to build winning streaks. I can’t help it, and maybe it will never change. Regardless, this is the last major week for non-conference play, and unless the two previously records for the West are broken over the next seven days I probably won’t update this until the end of the season.

Let’s see how this week plays out, though, especially for Phoenix. Their playoff hopes depend on how they perform against the East this week. Worth looking at out East would be the Knicks and Hawks, with the former going on a road trip to the West coast all while continuing a ridiculously soft schedule as of late while the latter plays Phoenix, Minnesota, and Portland this week.

A look at the Atlanta Hawks’ schedule amid trade rumors


via Flickr

We’re now past December 15, the date free agents become eligible to be traded. Paul Millsap, for example, goes from off limits to a very nice trade piece the Hawks can bait other teams with, specifically Houston for Omer Asik. Atlanta also has plenty of other friendly contracts at their disposal.

The schedule for the rest of the month might make it difficult for the Hawks to make immediate moves, however, or at least ones meant to help get in the lottery. Check out how soft the rest of December is for them:

Date Team Home/Away Record
Tonight Los Angeles Lakers Home 11-12
Wed, Dec 18 Sacramento Home 7-15
Fri, Dec 20 Utah Home 6-20
Mon, Dec 23 Miami Away 17-6
Thu, Dec 26 Cleveland Away 9-14
Sat, Dec 28 Charlotte Home 10-14
Sun, Dec 29 Orlando Away 7-17
Tue, Dec 31 Boston Away 11-14
Totals   4-4 78-112

It’s an interesting predicament when Atlanta can swap their first round pick with Brooklyn, who’s (sadly) less than two games away from the eighth seed and faces a favorable schedule this week: versus Philadelphia, versus Washington, then at Philadelphia on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

Several teams out East are lurking under .500 anyway, a winning streak away from looking like a contender for the playoffs or a losing streak away from hopping into the abundance of tanks waiting for them. Even Chicago, injury-plagued for the second straight season, might choose to rebuild by putting Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer on the trading block. That makes it tempting for Atlanta to make a clear run at the third seed in the East when so many others are a potential step or two ahead in regards to accumulating lottery balls.

But at best, there’s a very small chance the Hawks go further than the second round of the playoffs. Atlanta’s schedule in January looks brutal anyway, playing Golden State, Chicago, Brooklyn, Indiana, Houston, Memphis, Brooklyn again, and Miami over the first three weeks and in that order. San Antonio and Oklahoma City lurk in the final week, topping off what could be a decent pile of losses.

This isn’t meant to say Atlanta would base any season-altering move just by looking at who’s on the schedule, but going possibly 18-14 through December or finishing January a few games under .500, for example, could help dictate how the Hawks finish in April and what their roster looks like by then. They could move some pieces before 2014 and use their January schedule to slowly but surely make their way into the lottery, or they could just as likely rack up wins the rest of December, tread water through January, and sell a round or two of playoff tickets in the spring.

Atlanta could always make a trade later in the season too, though a rim protector like Asik likely won’t be up for grabs by then. Regardless, the Hawks are set up as a landing spot for a valuable asset should another one become available.

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