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Schedule analysis: Final 5 weeks of first-half schedule

Breaking down the remaining games for each team before the first-half schedule wraps up in early March.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The Lakers are tied with Dallas for the most home games in the West over the next 5 weeks.

We’re a little more than halfway through the first half of the 2020-21 NBA schedule, and it’s been a work in progress. The league was smart to schedule only (a little over) half of 1,080 games they proposed to play this season. But even with that planning, they’ve called an audible.

With 22 games having been postponed because teams didn’t have enough healthy and non-quarantined players, and with two teams having been hit particularly hard by absences, the league has started adding games back into the schedule. Over the last week, they’ve inserted six games back into the last five weeks of the schedule, shifting a couple others around to accommodate the additions.

What’s below is where things stand on Feb. 1, with the possibility that more changes could come in the coming days.


The big hits

Two teams have been hardest hit by COVID issues. The Washington Wizards had six straight games postponed from Jan. 13-22. The Memphis Grizzlies had a postponement on Jan. 15, and then five straight from Jan. 20-27.

The three sets of schedule changes last week added three games back to Wizards’ schedule, reducing their deficit from six to three. The Grizzlies just got back to work on Saturday and have had one game added back. So there could be more modifications forthcoming, with Feb. 23 as another possible make-up day that would avoid a back-to-back-to-back scenario for Memphis.

Beyond the Wiz and Grizz, six teams have two-game deficits. Another six teams have played all their scheduled games this far.


More tests for the Jazz

Donovan Mitchell and Utah are currently in 2nd place in the West.

The Utah Jazz won 11 straight games before losing in Denver on Sunday and currently sit in second place in the Western Conference at 15-5. They’re the only team in the league that ranks in the top six in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Jazz haven’t played a particularly difficult schedule – 10 of their 20 games have come against teams that currently have losing records – but they have plenty of quality wins. The Jazz have the second best record (7-3) in games played between the 15 teams that are currently over .500.

More games within that group are coming. The Jazz have the West’s toughest remaining first-half schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage (0.538). Their 16 games over the next five weeks are fairly balanced between games against teams that currently have winning records (9) and teams that don’t (7), but six of the 16 are against the other six teams that are at least three games over .500: the Clippers (x2), the Lakers, the Sixers (x2) and the Bucks.

Beyond those three against the L.A. teams, the Jazz have only one remaining first-half game within the Western Conference. They’re scheduled to play 12 of their 16 (including each of their next eight) games against the other conference, holding a 5-2 record against the East thus far.


Western Conference breakdown

Team Game Home Road B2B RA | RDA OppPCT > .500 OppO OppD
Dallas 16 11 5 2 1 | 2 0.495 10 3 | 7 7 | 7
Denver 17 7 10 3 4 | 3 0.484 8 8 | 5 5 | 8
Golden State 17 6 11 4 2 | 2 0.490 8 5 | 7 5 | 4
Houston 18 8 10 4 4 | 4 0.469 6 2 | 9 6 | 6
LA Clippers 17 8 9 3 2 | 2 0.497 9 8 | 6 8 | 7
L.A. Lakers 16 11 5 1 1 | 1 0.487 9 6 | 7 4 | 8
Memphis 18 10 8 4 2 | 1 0.499 7 6 | 3 4 | 6
Minnesota 17 6 11 5 2 | 3 0.488 6 4 | 6 4 | 4
New Orleans 18 11 7 5 2 | 4 0.483 10 6 | 5 7 | 6
Oklahoma City 18 10 8 5 1 | 3 0.517 11 7 | 5 7 | 3
Phoenix 17 10 7 3 3 | 2 0.483 8 5 | 7 5 | 8
Portland 17 7 10 5 2 | 3 0.495 7 4 | 6 6 | 6
Sacramento 17 9 8 5 5 | 4 0.526 10 8 | 6 5 | 7
San Antonio 16 8 8 3 1 | 2 0.461 6 2 | 11 6 | 6
Utah 16 7 9 3 2 | 3 0.538 9 6 | 6 5 | 3

H, R = Home, Road
B2B = Back-to-backs
RA | RDA = Rest-advantage, Rest-disadvantage games
OppPCT = Cumulative opponent winning percentage
>.500 = Games against teams that entered Feb. with winning records
OppO = Games against teams that entered Feb. in the top 10 & bottom 10 in offensive efficiency
OppD = Games against teams that entered Feb. in the top 10 & bottom 10 in defensive efficiency

Rest advantage = Didn’t play the day before. Opponent is playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Rest disadvantage = Playing the second game of a back-to-back. Opponent didn’t play the day before.
Through Sunday, teams are 37-27 (.578) in rest-advantage games, 19-12 at home and 18-15 on the road.


Western Conference notes:

  • The Mavs are tied with the Lakers for the most home-heavy schedule over the next five weeks. Of their 16 remaining first-half games, 11 are scheduled for the American Airlines Center. That includes a seven-game, 14-day homestand that begins Thursday with a two-game series against the Warriors.
  • The Nuggets have four rest-advantage games remaining in the first half, and they’re four of their last six games before the break. Their defense will be tested, with eight of their 17 games against teams that rank in the top 10 offensively. That includes two games each against the Bucks and Lakers.
  • The Rockets enter February having won five straight games. And they can keep that run going over the next couple of weeks. Eight of their next 10 games are on the road, but seven of their first nine are against teams that currently have losing records. The other two are against the Grizzlies and Spurs.
  • The Clippers and Jazz currently have the two best records in the league, and they’ll face each other in a two-game series in L.A. on Feb. 17 and 19, part of a six-game homestand for the Clips. That series is preceded by one of the easier five-game stretches of the next five weeks, where the Clips will play the Kings, Wolves, Bulls, Cavs and Heat.
  • The Lakers have just one back-to-back between now and the All-Star break, and it’s their last two games of the first-half schedule. They’ll close it out hosting the Suns on Mar. 2 and visiting the Kings on Mar. 3.
  • The Grizzlies have four games over the next five weeks against the Clippers (x2), Lakers and Bucks. But they also have a stretch (Feb. 6-19) where they’re scheduled to play seven of eight against teams that currently have losing records. That includes two games games against the Pelicans.
  • The Timberwolves are tied with Golden State for the West’s most road-heavy schedule over the next five weeks, with 11 of their 17 scheduled games away from the Target Center. They begin February with a five-game trip that includes two games in Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday. After that trip is done, they’re scheduled to play nine of their final 11 first-half games against the Eastern Conference.
  • The Pelicans are one of six teams with a league-high 18 games remaining on the first-half schedule. That includes five back-to-backs.
  • The Thunder, with a game against Memphis added into their schedule, have a stretch of eight games in 12 days (with three back-to-backs), from Feb. 16-27.
  • The Suns have a seven-game, 12-day homestand starting Feb. 5, and all seven games are against the Eastern Conference. It includes some fun matchups against the Celtics, Bucks, Sixers and Nets.
  • The Blazers have a stretch of five games in seven days from Feb. 11-17, though it’s not too difficult in regard to opponent strength. It starts with visit from the Sixers, but continues with games against the Cavs, Mavs, Thunder and Pelicans.
  • The Kings‘ 30th-ranked defense will face teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively in eight of their 17 games over the next five weeks. That includes two games against Brooklyn.

Getting tough on the Cavs

Second-year guard Collin Sexton has been key for Cleveland this season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the surprise teams of the season thus far, sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference at 9-11 through Sunday. More surprising than their record is that the Cavs rank eighth defensively after ranking 30th in each of the last two seasons.

The Cavs haven’t played the easiest schedule in the league thus far, and they have three wins over the Sixers (1) and Nets (2). But things are about to get much tougher. After the Cavs complete a back-to-back, home-and-home series against the 5-14 Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, they will play nine straight games against teams that enter February with winning records.

That stretch includes two games each against the 16-5 LA Clippers and the 11-8 Milwaukee Bucks. And those four games are part of a stretch where the Cavs are playing six of seven against teams that rank in the top six in offensive efficiency. So that eighth-ranked defense will be tested.

In regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage (0.566), the Cavs have the toughest schedule over the next five weeks. Of their 16 remaining games, 14 are against the 16 teams that are currently at or above .500.

So when we get to the All-Star break on March 5, we’ll have a much better idea of just how real the Cavs’ improvement is.


Eastern Conference breakdown

Team Game H R B2B RA | RDA OppPCT > .500 OppO OppD
Atlanta 17 8 9 4 2 | 3 0.498 8 7 | 6 7 | 2
Boston 18 9 9 4 3 | 2 0.500 10 6 | 2 5 | 5
Brooklyn 15 6 9 3 1 | 3 0.532 8 6 | 3 4 | 4
Charlotte 17 9 8 3 1 | 2 0.511 10 5 | 6 6 | 6
Chicago 17 9 8 3 4 | 2 0.467 5 4 | 6 5 | 7
Cleveland 16 9 7 4 5 | 2 0.566 12 7 | 3 5 | 3
Detroit 17 6 11 5 4 | 4 0.508 9 7 | 4 6 | 6
Indiana 17 7 10 4 6 | 4 0.511 10 5 | 6 8 | 5
Miami 17 8 9 1 7 | 1 0.511 7 5 | 5 8 | 5
Milwaukee 17 10 7 2 4 | 1 0.508 8 7 | 6 5 | 6
New York 16 9 7 5 2 | 5 0.431 6 3 | 6 2 | 8
Orlando 15 10 5 2 3 | 1 0.468 7 4 | 5 4 | 7
Philadelphia 15 8 7 1 1 | 1 0.515 7 7 | 2 5 | 5
Toronto 17 6 11 4 0 | 4 0.477 9 5 | 6 7 | 7
Washington 18 9 9 5 2 | 5 0.525 10 9 | 6 6 | 4

H, R = Home, Road
B2B = Back-to-backs
RA | RDA = Rest-advantage, Rest-disadvantage games
OppPCT = Cumulative opponent winning percentage
>.500 = Games against teams that entered Feb. with winning records
OppO = Games against teams that entered Feb. in the top 10 & bottom 10 in offensive efficiency
OppD = Games against teams that entered Feb. in the top 10 & bottom 10 in defensive efficiency


Eastern Conference notes:

  • The Hawks‘ next five weeks are fairly balanced, though they have a relatively tough slate in regard to opposing defenses. They’ll play seven games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency (including all three of their meetings with the Celtics) and only two against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10.
  • The Nets have the league’s third toughest next five weeks in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage, though only eight of their 15 games are against that currently have winning records. They begin February by hosting the Clippers on Tuesday, and they’ll play both L.A. teams at Staples Center at the end of a five-game trip. Nine of their last 10 games before the break are against the Western Conference.
  • After visiting the Heat on Monday and hosting the Sixers on Wednesday, the Hornets are scheduled to play 13 of their remaining 15 first-half games against the Western Conference. That includes two games each against the Warriors, Wolves and Jazz. Their first-half schedule concludes with a six-game trip through the West.
  • The Bulls have an East-high 11 games over the next five weeks against teams that are currently below .500. They begin February with two-game series against the Knicks (in Chicago) and Magic (in Orlando). They’re also scheduled to play the Pelicans twice (Feb. 10 and Mar. 3).
  • The Pistons begin February in the middle of a five-games-in-seven-nights stretch. And they’ll have another from Feb. 11-17.
  • The Pacers are tied (with the Clippers and Heat) for the most games (8) over the next five weeks against teams that rank in the top 10 defensively. And that’s eight different opponents. Four of those eight games are on the road and in a stretch of five in seven days that concludes their first-half schedule (Feb. 26 – Mar. 4).
  • The Heat have the league’s biggest differential between rest-advantage games (7) and rest-disadvantage games (1) over the next five weeks. No other team has a differential bigger than three.
  • The Bucks are scheduled to play 12 of their final 17 first-half games against the Western Conference, with two games each against Denver and Oklahoma City. They have the longest homestand for any team in the first half schedule, eight games over 15 days (Feb. 16 – Mar. 2). It begins with two-game series against Toronto and ends with visits from the Clippers and Nuggets.
  • The Knicks have the league’s easiest next five weeks in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage. But they’re tied for the most rest-disadvantage games over the next five weeks. They have five more, starting with their visit to Chicago on Monday.
  • The Magic‘s offense has been pretty anemic of late, but they play four of their next six games against teams that rank 27th, 28th and 30th defensively. They’re tied with Brooklyn and Philadelphia for the fewest remaining games (15) on the first-half schedule.
  • The Sixers are tied with the Heat and Lakers for the fewest back-to-backs over the next five weeks. They have just one and it’s their next two games. They’re in Charlotte on Wednesday and hosting the Blazers on Thursday.
  • The Raptors will play nine of their next 10 games on the road. They’re the only team with no rest-advantage games over the next five weeks. In fact, none of their 17 remaining first-half games are against a team that played the day/night before. The Raps also have the league’s most East-heavy schedule over the next five weeks, with 13 of their 17 games within the conference. That includes two-game series against the Bucks (in Milwaukee) and the Sixers (in Tampa).
  • The Wizards begin February with a stretch of five games in seven days. They have another from Feb. 22-28 that takes them from L.A. to Denver to Washington and then up to Boston.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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