Tag Archives: Memphis Grizzlies

East vs. West Week 1: Strong start to the 2014-15 season for the West

One week of non-conference play is in the books, and the West finished 6-1 against the East. The only loss came on Saturday night when Minnesota lost a close one against a Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson-less Bulls squad. The West did score some key wins, though, like Memphis over Charlotte in a game that felt like 2004 (the dead ball era) all over again.

Below is a breakdown of the first week. It’s much like the ones I did last year but with some new additions relating to Pythagorean record. Like last year, this table will also be updated weekly:

Though a large number through seven games, point differential says the West ran slightly better than expected. That’s probably thanks to Minnesota holding on against the Pistons Thursday night after blowing a 19-point lead in the 3rd quarter.

Week 1 is the last of light non-conference weeks until the all-star break. There will be 17 non-conference games in Week 2 and it will pick up even more after that. The teams most often in the Week 2 matchups are Minnesota, Cleveland, and Miami with three games each. Below are some of the most important games:

Monday:

Oklahoma City @ Brooklyn
Houston @ Miami

Tuesday:

Oklahoma City @ Toronto
Cleveland @ Portland

Sunday:

Miami @ Dallas

It looks like the East has one extra home game in Week 2 than the West, and the five key games listed above feature three of them on East courts. The East will have actually have a nice home-court stretch through Week 5, playing seven more home games than the West by then.

So starting with Cleveland playing three non-conference games this week, this could either be a stretch where the East gains some ground or the beginning of an onslaught by the West.

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.

East vs. West Week 20: The West’s chase for two records against the East

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.

Non-conference update: The East continues to chip away in the standings

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.

Last week the East continued a respectable winning percentage against the West, finishing 9-10. Among the teams bullied, though, was the New York Knicks thanks to Dirk Nowitzki and Stephen Curry. Detroit also didn’t win either of their games against the West. Over the past month, though, the East is 40-46 against the West. Not great, of course, but definitely fine.

Below is an updated week-by-week breakdown of non-conference play so far:

I mentioned in my last non-conference post that the West’s best season ever against the East was in 2004 when they finished with a winning percentage of 63.3. Last week put a dent in the possibility of 2014 surpassing that mark, though it’s still possible. The West would have to finish 71-35, which can be slimmed to 64-35 when taking into account Philadelphia playing seven non-conference games that should hardly be competitive. POOR THADDEUS YOUNG.

A pretty good chunk of non-conference games will take place this week, 28 total with each conference having 14 home games apiece. Indiana and Miami, far and away the best teams against the West, play five games while West playoff teams and their hopefuls play in 20 of them. A closer look at those games can be found here as well as bolded games I think the West will win, though I put little thought into it. Basically, the West was predicted to go 19-9 which is right on track to surpass 2004’s winning percentage.

The rest of March as a whole has a ton of non-conference games, 98 to be exact with 50 of the games hosted by West teams. After that, it slows down significantly with nine games over the 16 other days.

Below is a look at the league standings with non-conference games left. Conferences are separated by different sheets, so to view the West simply go to the bottom and click on sheet labeled after it.

Dallas having seven less non-conference games than Memphis and Minnesota looks pretty huge, though the Grizzlies still have to play Miami not once, not twice, not three times, not four, not five okay they play the Heat twice, but still. They’re actually a pretty interesting matchup with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph playing against the smaller lineups of Chris Bosh and either LeBron James or Shane Battier.

Minnesota also faces an important stretch of non-conference games right when they need it most, all while Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin return to the lineup. They’ll host New York, Detroit and Toronto this week and Milwaukee in the following one. That’s a good reminder that while the East is holding its own as of late, a stretch against their teams is still seen as a way to beef up in the standings.

Until next week.

%d bloggers like this: