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.