While opening night and Christmas are the highlights of the league’s schedule reveal, it’s always fun to dig a little deeper. Here are some notes and numbers regarding the 2022-23 schedule, with a focus on each team’s first 20 games.
1. Back-to-backs and rest advantages
Reducing the number of back-to-back sets each team plays continues to be a priority for the league. And this season, teams will average 13.3 back-to-backs, down from 13.5 last season and 19.3 eight years ago (2014-15). No team has fewer than 12 and no team has more than 15.
For the second straight season, there are no stretches of four games in five nights on the initial schedule (postponements eventually created 10 such instances last season). And there are fewer instances (30, down from 47) of a team playing five games in seven nights. Last season, there were two teams with five of those five-in-seven stretches. This season, no team has more than two.
Though total back-to-backs are down from last season, the number of games in which both teams are playing without rest is up from 41 to 54. That actually makes things a little more fair, as it reduces the number of games in which one team has a rest advantage. There are 290 rest-advantage games (23.6% of the total schedule) in 2022-23, down from 324 (26.3%) last season and the lowest total in at least the last 26 years.
A rest-advantage game is one where one team played the day/night before, but the other did not. Over the last three seasons, teams are 507-398 (0.560) in rest-advantage games, 307-222 (0.580) at home and 200-176 (0.532) on the road.
Back-to-backs and rest-advantage games, since 2014-15
|Season||B2B||Per team||Both B2B||Rest Adv.|
B2B = Total back-to-backs
Both B2B = Games in which both teams played the day/night before
Rest Adv. = Games in which one team played the day/night before, but the other did not.
* Original schedule
** Once games were re-scheduled & played
Note that there were 27 fewer back-to-backs in the 2019-20 schedule (that was never played in its entirety). That’s (at least in part) because there were three more days in the regular season. The league added a week to the schedule in 2017, but lost three of those seven days when it added the Play-In Tournament and moved the end of the regular season up from Wednesday to Sunday.
While the number of back-to-backs range from just 12-15, the number of games where a team faces an opponent on the second night of a back-to-back ranges from seven (Knicks) to 18 (Hawks, Lakers and Raptors). With that, there are pretty wide ranges in the number of rest-advantage and rest-disadvantage games.
- Most (14): Hawks, Lakers
- Fewest (5): Hornets, Knicks
2. Two-game series and extended stays in New York and L.A.
The biggest schedule evolution over the last few years is the addition and continued increase of two-game series, where two teams play two straight games in the same arena. Introduced in 2020-21 to reduce travel in a condensed schedule, two-game series remained with the return to a “normal” schedule last season, when there were 23 such series.
This season, there are 55. Three teams — the Heat (six at home, one on the road), Kings (three at home, four on the road) and Raptors (two at home, five on the road) — have seven two-game series, while one team — the Warriors — doesn’t have any.
To further reduce travel, the league has increased the number of times when teams play consecutive road games in New York (against the Knicks and Nets) or Los Angeles (against the Clippers and Lakers). There are 33 of those instances, including every Eastern Conference team playing its two L.A. games on the same stop.
The Thunder will actually play three straight games in L.A. in late March, a two-game series with the Clippers, followed by a rest-disadvantage game against the Lakers. The Suns and Kings are the only teams that don’t have a two-game stop in either New York or Los Angeles, while the Spurs have a pair of two-game stops in L.A. and another in New York.
3. Return of the Texas Triangle
The last time the Boston Celtics won the NBA title — the 2007-08 season — they were the best team in the league from the jump, winning 29 of their first 32 games. But it became more clear that they were the title favorites when they swept their “Texas Triangle” trip in mid-March. Their three straight wins in the state of Texas came against three teams that won more than 50 games that season and included a 20-point win in Houston, ending the fourth-longest winning streak in NBA history (22 games).
Since then, there have been 10 instances where a team has played three straight road games in the three different Texas cities, and the ’07-08 Celtics remain the last team to have swept the Texas Triangle. Five of the teams since then have gone 2-1, while the other five have gone 0-3.
The last Texas Triangle trip was in December 2019, when the Kings went 2-1, losing in San Antonio by a single point in overtime. But after a two-year hiatus, the Texas Triangle trip is back, and two teams will be making it this season.
The Blazers are the only team with three road trips of six games or more, and they’ll begin the second of those three trips by playing in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston on Dec. 14, 16 and 17. The Knicks will then have a three-game trip later in the month, playing Dallas, San Antonio and Houston on Dec. 27, 29 and 31.
4. Teams with long homestands, short road trips
Longest homestand of the season: Warriors – 8 games, from Dec. 25 – Jan. 10.
Longest road trips of the season:
- Pacers – 7 games (over 11 days), from Nov. 27 – Dec. 7
- Raptors – 7 games (over 12 days), from Jan. 25 – Feb. 5
- Kings – 7 games (over 12 days), from Jan. 28 – Feb. 8
The Spurs have their annual rodeo trip (nine games total) in February, but it’s once again split by the All-Star break, with six of the games (all vs. the Eastern Conference) before the break and three (Dallas, Utah, Utah) after.
Most one-game trips: Wizards – 12, including four in the first 15 days of the season.
Fewest one-game trips: Lakers – 2, at Golden State on opening night and at Portland on Jan. 22.
*Toughest five-game stretch of the season: Rockets – Nov. 28 – Dec. 5 (Games 20-24) – @ DEN, @ DEN, @ PHX, @ GSW, vs. PHI
*Easiest five-game stretch of the season: Timberwolves – Oct. 19-26 (Games 1-5) – vs. OKC, vs. UTA, @ OKC, vs. SAS, vs. SAS
* Based on FanDuel over-under projections for the opponents, adjusted for location and rest.
5. Why the first 20 games are important
The Play-In Tournament has made it so that a team doesn’t need to finish in the top eight in its conference to make the playoffs. Four months ago, the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans advanced to the first round after finishing ninth in their respective conferences by winning two Play-In games.
The Hawks had a solid start to the season, but the Pelicans were 4-16 after their first 20 games. They were the first team in the last 37 years to make the playoffs after winning fewer than five of its first 20. The last team to do it — the 1984-85 Cleveland Cavaliers — did it when only three teams in its conference failed to make the postseason.
We can still look at records at the 20-game mark as solid indicators of how good (or bad) teams are. Though the Pelicans defied the odds and the Celtics had a major turnaround in the second half of the season, the best team after 20 games last year was the 18-2 Warriors, who beat those Celtics in the Finals.
Even if we take last season’s Play-In Pelicans into account, only five of the 104 teams that have won fewer than seven of their first 20 games over the last 20 82-game seasons* have gone on to reach the postseason. And only 27 (13%) of the 205 teams in those 20 seasons that have won fewer than nine of their first 20 games have gone on to reach the playoffs. Basically, if you’re 8-12 or worse at the 20-game mark, you’d better hope that you’re the one team that’s going to make a turnaround.
* Since 1999-00, skipping ’11-12 (66 games), ’19-20 (63-75 games) and ’20-21 (72 games).
On the other end of the spectrum, 192 (91%) of the 211 teams that have won at least 12 of their first 20 games have gone on to make the playoffs. That translates to a little less than one miss per year, with last season’s Wizards (13-7 through 20) being the latest example of a team that failed to make the playoffs after a strong start.
6. Easiest, toughest starts to the season
With that in mind, the Clippers and Bucks, two teams that could certainly meet in the Finals 10 months from now, should be in good shape.
If you take opponent point differential per 100 possessions from last season and adjust for location and rest, the Bucks have the easiest first 20 games. Their longest homestand of the season (six games) is Games 2-7, and six of their first 20 are against the Pistons (x 2), Rockets, Thunder (x 2) and Spurs.
Some of those teams (not the Spurs) should be better than they were last season. But the Bucks still have the most home games (13) in their first 20, and they have three more rest-advantage games (4) than rest-disadvantage games (1) in that first six weeks.
Out West, the Clippers have a similarly easy start. In fact, if you look at adjusted FanDuel over-under 2022-23 win totals* (to get expected opponent strength instead of looking at last season’s numbers) and then adjust for location and rest, the Clippers have the league’s easiest first 20 games. Eleven of their first 20 are against the Pistons, Rockets (x 3), Thunder (x 2), Kings, Spurs (x 2) and Jazz (x 2).
* Adjusted so that the league total for wins is 1,230.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Blazers (for the second year in a row) have the toughest first 20 games according to last year’s numbers and the second toughest using FanDuel over-unders. Their first 20 include five games against the Suns (x 3) and Heat (x 2), and they’ll play 12 of those 20 on the road.
Here are the five toughest first-20 schedules, taking cumulative opponent winning percentage (using FanDuel over-unders), location and rest into account.
- Spurs: .552, 10 home, 10 road, 2 rest-advantage, 4 rest-disadvantage
- Blazers: .526, 8 home, 12 road, 2 rest-advantage, 1 rest-disadvantage
- Jazz: .528, 8 home, 12 road, 1 rest-advantage, 3 rest-disadvantage
- Cavs: .527, 9 home, 11 road, 1 rest-advantage, 2 rest-disadvantage
- Thunder: .541, 10 home, 10 road, 4 rest-advantage, 2 rest-disadvantage
Here are the five easiest schedules for the first 20 games using the same criteria.
- Clippers: .432, 11 home, 9 road, 0 rest-advantage, 2 rest-disadvantage
- Timberwolves: .451, 11 home, 9 road, 3 rest-advantage, 2 rest-disadvantage
- Bucks: .470, 13 home, 7 road, 4 rest-advantage, 1 rest-disadvantage
- Nuggets: .441, 7 home, 13 road, 3 rest-advantage, 2 rest-disadvantage
- Grizzlies: .457, 9 home, 11 road, 2 rest-advantage, 2 rest-disadvantage
7. Breaking down all 30 teams
Here are some key numbers for every team’s schedule.
Eastern Conference 2022-23 schedule breakdown
|Full season||First 20 games|
|Team||B2B||RA | RDA||SOS||5 in 7||Home||Road||B2B||RA | RDA||SOS|
|Atlanta||13||14 | 9||.499||0||11||9||2||4 | 1||.484|
|Boston||13||8 | 9||.494||0||10||10||3||2 | 0||.493|
|Brooklyn||14||9 | 10||.506||2||8||12||5||1 | 4||.527|
|Charlotte||12||5 | 9||.502||1||9||11||3||3 | 2||.483|
|Chicago||15||8 | 12||.501||1||10||10||4||2 | 2||.499|
|Cleveland||12||12 | 10||.498||1||9||11||3||1 | 2||.539|
|Detroit||13||10 | 8||.504||2||8||12||6||1 | 4||.532|
|Indiana||14||7 | 11||.508||1||11||9||4||1 | 2||.473|
|Miami||14||7 | 10||.496||1||12||8||4||1 | 3||.499|
|Milwaukee||13||10 | 8||.493||2||13||7||2||4 | 1||.447|
|New York||12||5 | 10||.506||1||9||11||3||0 | 2||.508|
|Orlando||13||10 | 8||.507||2||11||9||2||1 | 0||.483|
|Philadelphia||13||10 | 9||.493||2||11||9||4||3 | 2||.483|
|Toronto||12||13 | 7||.501||2||10||10||3||2 | 1||.505|
|Washington||14||9 | 10||.505||1||11||9||3||2 | 3||.512|
B2B = Back-to-backs
RA, RDA = Rest-advantage, Rest-disadvantage games
SOS = Strength of schedule, based on opponents’ FanDuel over-unders, adjusted for location and rest
5 in 7 = Stretches of five games in 7 days
Blue = Easiest; Red = Toughest
Western Conference 2022-23 schedule breakdown
|Full season||First 20 games|
|Team||B2B||RA | RDA||SOS||5 in 7||Home||Road||B2B||RA | RDA||SOS|
|Dallas||13||11 | 10||.498||0||12||8||4||3 | 4||.508|
|Denver||12||11 | 11||.497||1||7||13||2||3 | 2||.453|
|Golden State||15||8 | 13||.497||1||10||10||4||3 | 4||.480|
|Houston||13||9 | 7||.508||0||8||12||3||3 | 1||.526|
|LA Clippers||15||9 | 13||.490||0||11||9||4||0 | 2||.425|
|L.A. Lakers||12||14 | 8||.500||0||12||8||2||5 | 0||.465|
|Memphis||12||10 | 8||.492||0||9||11||2||2 | 2||.460|
|Minnesota||14||12 | 11||.493||1||11||9||2||3 | 2||.445|
|New Orleans||12||10 | 10||.495||1||10||10||3||2 | 2||.507|
|Oklahoma City||13||11 | 11||.511||2||10||10||3||4 | 2||.539|
|Phoenix||12||11 | 6||.494||0||12||8||2||1 | 0||.475|
|Portland||14||8 | 10||.501||1||8||12||3||2 | 1||.543|
|Sacramento||15||13 | 11||.497||2||11||9||2||1 | 2||.522|
|San Antonio||14||6 | 12||.509||1||10||10||4||2 | 4||.551|
|Utah||15||10 | 9||.505||1||8||12||5||1 | 3||.543|
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