The San Antonio Spurs have exploded out to a 29 – 6 record to start the season, the best in the entire NBA. Their margin of victory (MOV) is also best in the West and third behind Miami and Boston. Pro Basketball Prospectus’ (BP) 2010-2011 season outlook – a compilation of objective projections based on a lot of research and statistics – predicted the Spurs to finish second in the Western Conference, and just perusing the web it seems that most people picked them to finish between 3rd and 5th.
While the Spurs’ ability to out perform expectations this season is likely a result, in part, of simply being better than we thought, an early glitch in the scheduling has definitely helped as well. San Antonio has played just 14 games on the road versus 21 games at home, and additionally has only played six back-to-back games. Most teams have something closer to a 50/50 split in home and away games, and my unofficial survey of ESPN split stats indicates that most teams have already played around 9 or 10 back-to-backs. The Cavs, for example, have already played 12.
Home court advantage has been well documented in most major team sports, and the NBA sees approximately 58% of home teams win throughout the season. The Spurs will play 7 more road games than home games from here on out.
San Antonio is also an older team, and a study done in the department of statistics at Wharton shows that “all things being equal, a team playing a game the day immediately following another game should be expected to score roughly 1.77 points less.” I’ve talked about how margin of victory is an important indicator to win percentage, and 1.77 points lost in each second game of a back-to-back can definitely impact a team’s record. The study goes on to say that — based on a logistic regression — this 1.77 points lost lowers a team’s odds of winning by a factor of .75. In other words, a team that would normally win 5 out of 10 games would likely win between 3 and 4 of those if all 10 games were played as the second of a back-to-back.
So…yes, the Spurs are good, but their remaining schedule is going to get more difficult.
*The West has begun to show, once again, that it is the deeper conference. 10 teams in the West have positive MOVs, compared to just 6 from the east. Additionally the West is a whole point better per game than the East on average, and is 24 games over .500 in inter-conference games. However, the Celtics and Heat have the top two MOVs in the NBA.
*The Magic have gone 8-1 since trading for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, including wins over those league-leading Spurs, Boston and New York. Their average MOV over that span is 9.3 points.
*Monta Ellis is third in the league in scoring, but more importantly for Warrior fans he is much more efficient this season. His career three-point percentage of 32.7% has risen to 38.8% this season, and his overall true field goal percentage is up from 54.0% to 55.3%. And if you know me at all, you know I’m going to say something about his A/TO ratio. It’s up from 1.52 to 1.64.