NBA: Handicapping the Schedules

NBA: Handicapping the Schedules

Handicapping the Schedules
by Roz Juarbe

The first weekend after the NBA All-Star break is interesting from a scheduling perspective and puts into focus many facets of handicapping that will continue to pop up. I’m talking about scheduling and situational handicapping. The All Star break means some teams have to play a slew of games crammed into each other this week, while other teams have a few games spread out.

This adds the extra dimension of rest versus back-to-back situations all over the schedule. For instance, on Saturday the Houston Rockets will head to Chicago. The Rockets just had an impressive Thursday night win on national TV over LeBron James and the Cavaliers. That was one of only two games scheduled that night. So since an NBA team can’t play three games in three nights anymore, the Rockets have a day of rest heading into Chicago.

The Bulls, however, have been playing all week, it seems, as this will be their fourth game in five nights. It’s also the second of a back-to-back spot, having played at Washington Friday night. This is where looking at team depth, bench play and road travel comes into play from a handicapping element.

On Sunday, the tables turn on Houston, playing their third game in four nights, as well as a back-to-back road spot, while the host Timberwolves are rested. It will be an interesting test of the Rockets’ depth, as they traded starting point guard Rafer Alston last week, plus they just lost Tracy McGrady for the rest of the season.

Also, a lot of teams are either starting long road trips or just finishing them up. Teams home from a long trip can often be flat in that first game back. The handicapping theory is that players haven’t been home for weeks, so they are extra-focused on seeing their family, taking care of bills or other matters as they’ve been away so long. The Denver Nuggets came home from an 8-game road trip this week, and were blown out of the water by the Celtics, 114-76! For whatever reason, their focus didn’t appear on the court, especially on defense.

Boston is home from a 6-game road trip this weekend, while the first week of March San Antonio finishes up a stretch where they will have played 17 of 23 on the road. Keep close tabs on road trips and situational handicapping spots, especially as we get into the second half of what is a long grind for NBA players.

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