The number of day games on any relatively recent NBA schedule is rather small. Rarely will you see an NBA team reach as many as 12 day games in the regular season. This makes sense on several levels but is surprising in others.
What makes sense: With red-eye plane flights and disordered sleep schedules in a generally brutal travel schedule, the majority of games certainly have to be played at night. Weekdays should not be an occasion for day games — neither basketball nor hockey can be like baseball in this regard. Moreover, athletes crave rhythm and order and routine. Playing at 7:30 or 8 at night is what athletes are used to, and have become accustomed to doing. The regularity of the schedule is, on balance, necessary.
However, all those details don’t mean the low number of day games is a problem-free reality.
The main reason the low number of day games stands out as a somewhat problematic fact is that whenever the schedule arrives at a weekend and a back-to-back stack is in play for either Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, that front end of the back-to-back ought to be a day game. This facilitates travel to — and rest at — the second site for a night game on the back end of the back-to-back.
We’ll do more research on that last piece in the coming days, but there are certainly some pockets of the schedule in which weekend games on the front end of a back-to-back are kept at night. Yes, plenty of weekend games are day games that do facilitate easier travel in back-to-back stacks… but there should be several more such day games on the schedule.
Here is the breakdown of day games for each team, with a note attached:
2015-2016 NBA SCHEDULE: NUMBER OF DAY GAMES PER TEAM
ATLANTA: 6 day games – 5 from Jan. 3 through Feb. 28.
BOSTON: 5 — one on Jan. 2, when the NFL isn’t playing, and one on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7.
BROOKLYN: 5 — one on Jan. 2, none after Jan. 24.
CHARLOTTE: 8 — first in the Eastern Conference and second in the NBA this season. One game is on Saturday, Jan. 9, when the Carolina Panthers could be playing in the NFL playoffs. (The game is a road game.)
CHICAGO: 5 — all from Christmas Day through Jan. 31. One game is on Jan. 3, week 17 of the NFL season, and one is Jan. 9, Saturday of NFL Wild Card Weekend. (Both games are roadies.)
CLEVELAND: 7 — 4 games from Feb. 21 through April 3. At least four of these day games do indeed form the front ends of back-to-back games.
DETROIT: 3 — one day game sets up one of the best-devised back-to-backs on the whole schedule: a 3:30 Eastern game on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Los Angeles Clippers, followed by a 9:30 Eastern game on Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s exactly how back-to-backs should fit into a schedule.
INDIANA: 2 — tied for fewest in the league with San Antonio and Utah.
MIAMI: 4 — The Heat play a day game at home on Christmas, so they smartly scheduled a Dec. 20 day game (that’s the Sunday before Christmas) to prepare their body clocks a bit.
MILWAUKEE: 5 — one day game falls on the day after Christmas. December 26 happens to be a Saturday this year.
NEW YORK: 5 — two day games are in November and three come from Jan. 3 through Feb. 7. The Knicks play no day games on the road. Related: The Knicks play no day games on ABC — they’re not on ABC at all this season.
ORLANDO: 4 or 5 — 4 if a game played at night in London (3 Eastern here in the United States) is a night game, 5 if you count that as a day game going by American body clocks.
PHILADELPHIA: 5 — 4 games occur before the end of January.
TORONTO: 5 or 6 — see the note about Orlando for details. The Raptors play only one day game after Jan. 14 (if you count that date’s game as a day game).
WASHINGTON: 4 — no day games before Jan. 18.
DALLAS: 7 — no day games before Jan. 10; five games from March 6 through April 10.
DENVER: 6 — one day game before Feb. 7, four after the All-Star break.
GOLDEN STATE: 4 — just two day games after Christmas Day.
HOUSTON: 4 — no day games before Jan. 24.
L.A. CLIPPERS: 12 — most in the league by four games over Charlotte. The Clippers play three day games in November and January. They are the only team in the league to play consecutive day home games at any point on the schedule — 3:30 Eastern on Saturday, Jan. 9 against Charlotte, and Sunday, Jan. 10 against New Orleans.
Why so many Clipper home games? The Clippers play at 3:30 Eastern (12:30 local time) on Sundays, giving the Staples Center crew enough time to clean the building and put on the Lakers’ court in time for the Purple and Gold. The Lakers regularly play Sunday games at 9:30 Eastern (6:30 local time).
L.A. LAKERS: 3 — just one appearance on ABC this season, a big reason for the small number of day games.
MEMPHIS: 4 — just one game after Jan. 18.
MINNESOTA: 7 — one day game after Jan. 17. The T-Wolves twice play day games in back-to-back weeks: Dec. 13 and 20, and Jan. 10 and 17.
NEW ORLEANS: 6 — one gane after Feb. 21, and no ABC Sunday appearances, despite Anthony Davis.
OKLAHOMA CITY: 6 — at least one day game in December, January, February, March, and April.
PHOENIX: 7 — day games in three straight weeks (December 6, 13 and 20) and five out of seven weeks (Dec. 6-13-20, Jan. 2, Jan. 17).
PORTLAND: 5 — one day game in each of the first five full months of the season (November through March).
SACRAMENTO: 3 — one game on Jan. 2 and one on Super Bowl Sunday.
SAN ANTONIO: 2 — one of them is Nov. 1, so the Spurs will play their last 79 games with only one day game in the mix.
UTAH: 2 — one of these games is on Martin Luther King Day, so the Jazz will play only one day game on a Saturday or Sunday throughout the season.