With three weeks left in the NBA regular season, the Western Conference is edging closer to a historically dominant regular season. Though most NBA writers have moved on to sexier storylines (Durant vs. Lebron, the Clippers as contenders, the Bulls as spoilers, etc.), the over-arching narrative of the season is probably just how lopsided the conferences have been. Chalk it up to the allure of the 2014 Draft and several tanking Eastern Conference teams. Blame injuries to Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez, Al Horford, Larry Sanders and others. Pin it on the fact that free-agents choose warm weather cities over Milwaukee and Cleveland. All of the above are considerations. When the story ends on this regular season, we may have seen some genuine history in terms of cross-conference disparity.
Here are the numbers:
West: 273 wins (.636) Vs. East: 156 wins (.364)
*games played through March 25, 2014
Here were the numbers three weeks ago:
West: 215 wins (.628)—East: 127 wins (.372)
*games played through March 3, 2014.
The greatest cross-conference winning percentage in NBA history was .708, when the Eastern Conference had its way with the Western Conference in 1959-1960. There were four teams in each conference then. Over the 75 game regular season, the Celtics went 59-16, while the Cincinnati Royals went 19-56.
Since the 1976 merger, when the Association expanded from 18 to 22 teams, the most lopsided season was 2003-04, when the West went 266-154, good for a .633 winning percentage. No other season in the last 37 years has been over .600.
As the final week plays itself out, this is an interesting little sub-plot that has nothing to do with the playoffs, but helps explain why either Dallas, Memphis or Phoenix will likely lose out on a playoff spot despite winning upwards of 46 games, while the stumbling Hawks or the zombie-resurrection Knicks clinch the East’s 8th seed despite winning 36 or 37 games. Assuming its the Suns, it is kind of tragic that one of the league’s feel-good team stories won’t have the opportunity to play in some big games, even if they would likely get eviscerated by the Spurs in the first round.