Happy Thanksgiving Weekend.
The Blazers had a November to Remember, going 7-0 against the Eastern Conference, including 3 double digit wins and 4 road wins.
We haven't seen this kind of dominance by the Blazers in some time. For the past decade, the Blazers have oscillated around 500, with low variance, with the exception of the 2005-06 and 2008-09 seasons.
Blazers record vs the East the past decade:
However, taking a quick look at the records of the teams in each Conference, shows that this years current domination isn't a Blazer specific phenomenon.
The Western Conference is 55-21 against the Eastern Conference, a 72.4% winning percentage.
The Eastern Conference has just 3 teams with records above 500(Pacers/Heat/Hawks), while the Western Conference has just 3 teams with records below 500(Utah/Sactown/NO).
The Pacers and Heat are a perfect 6-0 against the West, while the rest of the conference is just 15-55, a 21.4% winning percentage. Another way of looking at it is the Jazz and Kings are 2-6 against the East, while the rest of the conference is an amazing 53-15 against the East, a 77.9% winning percentage.
For the past decade, the Western Conference has consistently been better than the East, but never has the disparity been quite so glaring.
The Eastern Conference vs the Western Conference:
Since the 2000-01 season, the East is 2397-3219 vs the West, a 42.7% winning percentage.
This would equate the East to, on average, having a 35-47 record vs the West if we 'adjusted' it to 82 game seasons.
The only ''winning" season was the 2008-09 season: this crowning accomplishment by the East over the past decade would 'adjust' to a 42-40 season.
It had appeared in the 2008-09 season, that the Eastern Conference had finally caught up with the West, and was turning a corner, but this now looks much more like an outlier. That year, the West had 5 teams(1/3 of the conference) attempting a full rebuild, winning less than 30% of their games(all with 24 wins or less and 58 losses or more), along with the Warriors winning just 29 games.
The following season, the East lost 6% off that winning percentage, and an additional 3.3% off that winning percentage the next. The East had been holding fairly steady, winning 42% of their games against the West for 3 consecutive seasons.
The problem for the East has been that there are only 3 teams the past few years that play above 500 against the West:
In 2010-11: Just the Bulls(23-7), Heat(20-10), and Celtics(19-11) had better than 53% records against the West. The rest of the East was 127-233, a 35.3% winning percentage.
In 2011-12: Just the Bulls(12-6), Heat(11-7), and Pacers(13-5) had better than 50% records against the West. The rest of the East was 78-138, a 36.1% winning percentage.
In 2012-13: Just the Heat(25-5), Knicks(17-13), and Pacers(18-12) had better than 50% records against the West. The rest of the East was 128-232, a 35.6% winning percentage.
With Derrick Rose gone for the season once again, it appears that the East is only going to field two teams with winning records against the West. While there is a great deal of basketball to be played, it does seem like we can just pencil in the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers into the Eastern Conference finals.
So, why does the Western Conference have such an advantage?
Well, taking an educated guess, it probably comes down to the Western Conference having better players. :-)
When looking at PER(Player Efficiency Rating), the Western Conference has 12 of the top 15 players, with the East contributing Lebron(Miami), Paul George(Indiana), and Melo(NY Knicks). The Western Conference' 12 players in the top 15: Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley, Isaiah Thomas, Ty Lawson, Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry, and Blake Griffin.
When looking at Win Shares, the Western Conference has 12 of the top 15 players, with the East contributing Lebron(Miami), Paul George(Indiana), and Arron Afflalo(Magic). The Western Conference' 12 players in the top 15: Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Wesley Matthews, Kevin Martin, Klay Thompson, Nowitzki, Ty Lawson, Blake Griffin, Mike Conley, and Damian Lillard.
When looking at Win Shares per 48 minutes, the Western Conference has 13 of the top 15 players, with the East contributing Lebron(Miami) and Paul George(Indiana). The Western Conference' 13 players in the top 15: Chris Paul, Tiago Splitter, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry, Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki, Ty Lawson, Tony Parker, and Kawhi Leonard.
Seems fairly clear why the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers aren't being destroyed by the Western Conference: Lebron James and Paul George.
The rest of the Eastern Conference is almost completely absent from these top 15 lists.
While the East as a whole has been several notches below the West, the top tier teams in the East have still had success.
The past 10 championships have been evenly distributed between the two conferences, 5 for each. However, the prior 5 championships have all went to the West.
Though, 9 of those 10 championships for the West were won by Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich.
The Blazers inter-conference schedule in December:
- Dec. 2: vs Indiana
- Dec. 14: @Philadelphia
- Dec. 15: @Detroit
- Dec. 17: @Cleveland
- Dec. 28: vs Miami
The Blazers play both home games against the 2 East teams showing promise, along with 3 more road games.
Looks like our talented SF Nic Batum is going to have to show that defensive prowess, and shutdown Lebron and Paul George.
So, will the Blazers be able to maintain their current undefeated streak against the East in December?