The Nuggets have a famed home-court advantage.
Unlike many sports theories, this one is mathematically supported. Reality matches the perception.
But why do the Nuggets fare so much better in Denver than expected?
The most common explanation is the altitude. Opponents aren’t used to playing in the thin air, and they become fatigued more quickly than the Nuggets.
There’s another factor – or at least was.
On the NBA map, Denver is in as unusual a place as there is. It’s smack in the middle — at least a two-hour flight to all but a few cities. And only the Utah Jazz shares the same time zone.
So here’s the problem as other teams see it: Denver has too much of an advantage in back-to-back games when the Nuggets are the second leg and said team is coming to play them from anywhere on the West Coast.
This issue was brought up among the many things on coaches’ minds during their summer meetings.
The NBA already has taken action to reduce that advantage through altered scheduling such as making Denver the first stop coming from the east or putting a day off between the games for teams coming from the west.
“It’s been a point of contention to where they’ve cut it down,” Malone said.
If the NBA is trying to reduce the wear on opponents before visiting Denver, the league could do a better job.
The Nuggets host 11 opponents who are on a back-to-back this season – tied for sixth-fewest in the NBA. The Raptors (6) and Hawks, Bucks and Pelicans (16 each) fall on the extreme ends of the spectrum.
That’s a decent drop from last season for Denver (15, tied for 18th fewest), but not so much from the season prior (12, tied for 9th fewest).
Remember, back-to-backs are down across the board.
What’s more, nine of those 11 opponents on back-to-backs in Denver this season are coming from the west the day prior:
- Jazz (in Utah day before)
- Cavaliers (Phoenix)
- Hornets (Los Angeles)
- Lakers (Los Angeles)
- Suns (Phoenix)
- Wizards (Utah)
- Mavericks (Sacramento)
- Kings (Sacramento)
- Spurs (Golden State)
With supposedly a bigger concern about traveling west to Denver, I’m skeptical how much was really done by the NBA schedule-makers.
To be fair, Denver’s location presents scheduling difficulties. It’s possible the NBA has made a concerted effort to diminish the Nuggets’ home-court advantage. Without knowing which outcomes were possible if the league weren’t concerned by this, it’s impossible to say how effective the scheduling was.