Tag Archives: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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.

Non-conference standings and point differential since 1951

During the middle of last season, I started a weekly series devoted to non-conference games. Way back then, the 2014 West was on track for the highest winning percentage against the East over the last 18 years. They eventually fell just short of that mark, but recorded the highest point-differential against the East and vice versa. Those stats since 1997 are according to NBA.com, but there were still 46 years of non-conference matchups to uncover. Which conference in which year really had the highest winning percentage against the other? What about point differential? That’s what this post takes care of.

Below is a table allowing for sorting and filtering over the last 60+ years. 1951 to 1996 were from Basketball-Reference. After that I’ll look at the best years in winning percentage and point differential.

From 1951 to 1970, the conferences were called divisions and for good reason: There were as few as eight teams. The East was often the best over those 20 years of non-conference battles, and their peak was 1960. The Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia Warriors improved by 10+ wins, the latter team with a rookie Wilt Chamberlain, but there was also the 59-16 Boston Celtics with Bill Russell. Out West, the St. Louis Hawks were the only team to finish over .500, 46-29, while the other three were a combined 74-151. The 1960 East still have the highest winning percentage ever in non-conference play at 70.83, 7.5 percent better than the 2004 West’s mark of 63.33, but they also own the highest point differential of +5.87, about a full point higher than the second-highest that came from the 1972 West.

More on those runner-ups in a bit. From 1951 to 1970, though, it seems fair to put an asterisk next to that era’s non-conference stats because of how small the NBA was. For that reason and visual purposes, I left them out of some charts.

As for 2004, the East was mostly a two-team race between the eventual champion Detroit Pistons and the conference finalist Indiana Pacers. In the West, the Lakers may have been the favorite, but there were arguably four other teams that, with a little luck, could’ve made the Finals instead. For the highest point differential, the 1972 West outdoes 2014 by a decent amount. Among other reasons for the West’s success 42 years ago, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks were in their second season placed in the conference. Six of their nine teams recorded over 47 wins that year while the East had just two of their eight do the same in Boston and New York.

Below is a chart of point differential since 1971 with some notes:

west pd since 1971

(click to enlarge)

Back to the table, though: I included ‘PD%’, which stands for point differential percentage. This was an attempt to adjust for pace over the years since the average in 1972 was 112.0 and last season it was 93.9. Maybe winning 125-115 looks less impressive than 105-95, maybe it doesn’t. When it comes to the top point differential, though, we can see if dividing West points by East points changes anything:

west pd and percentage since 1971 pdeahaiohaso;dhf

‘PD%’ doesn’t change too much of the top 10. It does lower the separation between the 1972 and 2014 West while some recent, slow-paced years with a dominant conference move up the ranks, but the charts over the last 40 years look pretty identical. They both indicate East was better during the ’80s and, when some guy named Michael Jordan wasn’t in retirement, the ’90s also. Since then, the East has struggled for a variety of reasons, one being sloppy roster management.

That looks to have changed somewhat, and sooner or later some of the West’s powerhouses will rebuild while the East will crank out more consistent winners. We’ll see how much LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh all staying in the East helped the conference in both the short and long run.

Next Monday I’ll bounce off this post and take a look at non-conference records of the past using not just point differential, but some stats I’ve yet to use in this series. (Edit: Maybe not next Monday…but the next Monday after that, and also the Friday that week…!)

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