Numbers, for all of their marked science, can sometimes lie. Take season records. The Indiana Pacers sit atop of the NBA leaderboard with an impressive 16-2 start. By all accounts, they look like a team that is capable of snagging some hardware this year. But a closer inspection reveals chocolate where we thought we had (navy blue and) gold.
Below we look at a breakdown of numbers, specifically the league’s strength of schedule, and how that translates to championship dreams and beyond.
.514 – San Antonio’s Strength of Schedule rating. That means that the teams they’ve played against up to this point have had a collective win percentage of 51.4 (and is adjusted for home vs. away games and the number of days off). Of the league’s four best teams—themselves, Indiana, Portland, and Oklahoma—they’ve battled against a higher percentage of better teams yet sit atop of the Western Conference standings.
.528 – Utah’s Strength of Schedule rating, which is the league’s sixth highest. Maybe they aren’t as bad as their record tells?
.778 and .889 – The winning percentages of Indiana and Miami, the Eastern Conference’s best teams. Without their records in the mix, the East currently has a collective win percentage of 35.9. Or, about as bad as the Toronto Raptors. In order words, without the Pacers and Indiana, the East is practically Rudy Gay and a bunch of other guys.
5 – That’s how many teams the Pacers have played this year with a .500 record or above. The Clippers, the Wizards, the Grizzlies, the Pelicans and the Blazers. Only two of those teams—the Clippers and the Blazers—had above a .500 record before tip-off with Indiana and the Indy Blue lost to one of them. This isn’t to suggest that the Pacers aren’t verifiable contenders only that they’ll need to beat more cream of the crop teams to prove they’re the real deal.
8th – The New York Knicks have had the league’s eight hardest schedule. Could they be the Utah Jazz of the East—not as bad as their paltry start suggest?
9 of 10 – Nine out of the ten NBA teams with the hardest schedules up to this juncture have been from the Western Conference. Despite this, the Western Conference is wiping its behind with the Eastern Conference at the moment to the tune of 71.3 percent—their winning percentage against East squads.
30 – That’s where Miami ranks in terms of the strength of the teams they’ve played against. Last year, they also had one of the league’s most forgiving schedules, which partly explains their 27-game win streak. It’s like the league isn’t even trying to tire them.
94-88 – That’s the final score of San Antonio’s loss to OKC. It not only marked their third loss of the season but also the third against top-tier Western Conference foes. A return trip to the NBA Finals won’t be exactly be a promenade for the four-time champs.