Schedule Flaw Leaves Knicks Gasping

A flaw in the NBA’s scheduling program hurts both the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz in their game in Salt Lake City tonight.  Each team is locked in its own “race to last place” and the scheduling flaw couldn’t come at a worse time.

The flaw is this: any time a team plays the first game of a back-to-back at sea level (anywhere but Denver and Utah) and then plays the second game of that back-to-back at altitude (Denver or Utah), they get hit with a triple whammy.  First, it’s a back-to-back and they played the day before.  Second, the visitors had to travel after playing that first game.  And third, playing at altitude means having to adjust to lower oxygen levels, something that takes considerably longer than a few hours.  Advanced analytics show that players with sufficient oxygen play much better than players with no oxygen…

For the Jazz, in last place in the Western Conference and playing for ping pong balls at this point, it means having a better chance of winning the game.  That may mean less of a chance for winning the lottery this year.  Yes, you can sometimes lose by winning.

For the Knicks, a game behind the Atlanta Hawks for the last playoff spot in the Leastern Conference, it means it’ll be harder to win against a team that, under other circumstances, they should be able to easily beat.  The Knicks haven’t played well in 3½ of their last 5 games (losses to the Cavaliers, Lakers, and Suns and a 33-point second half against the Warriors in last night’s ‘gift’ win); Melo shoots worse as the game progresses; and now they’re going to be gasping for air much of the night.  And no, sucking in the third quarter, as usual, will not raise their blood oxygen levels…

I’ve written about this before and am putting together a set of rules that, hopefully, the NBA can incorporate into their scheduling program in time for the 2016-17 season.  Until then, what’s normally an advantage for the home team Nuggets or Jazz actually hurts the Jazz if it helps them win tonight.

Something the Knicks can do to help overcome this is “sub early and sub often”.  Instead of having Melo play 10 minutes of the first quarter and then sit until the 7 minute mark of the second, play him 5, sit him 2, play him another 5, etc.  Resting players before they get exhausted means a lot more to their recovery than running them until they’re staggering and then giving them a lot of time off before going into the game again.

With luck, this will work out for everyone.  The Knicks will win, the Jazz will play hard and lose, the fans will see a good game, and both teams will make strides in their “last gasp” efforts at last place.  Good luck to all…


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