Numbers Game: Investigating Back-to-Backs
Numbers Game: Investigating Back-to-Backs

This article is part of our Numbers Game series.

Everyone knows basketball players play worse on the second night of a back-to-back set – the second of two games played on consecutive days.

Well, one of this column's two goals is to investigate whether commonplace assumptions are statistically justified, so this topic sounds like a perfect fit. Already this season we've determined that the significance of pace is typically overstated. This week, we'll look at back-to-backs and see if the actual production matches the narrative.

Setting Up – Making a fair test

We want an apples-to-apples comparison as much as possible. For example, early this season, John Wall sat out the second night of two back-to-back sets. Tomas Satoransky averaged 31.5 minutes in those two games – he has only one game of more than 25 minutes the rest of the season. For Satoransky, the data would shows that he plays better during back-to-back sets, even though we know logically that this is misleading.

Here are some of the steps I took to minimize this kind of "noise" in my data. First, I used data from the entire 2014-15 season for this investigation (my 2015-16 database has been corrupted, and I did not have time to fix that before writing this). We want an entire season of data to ensure adequate sample size and diversity.

Second, I focused the investigation on players in the starting lineup on consecutive nights. Only players who started both games of the back-to-back set qualified. This doesn't eliminate all of the noise, but

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NBA Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NBA fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.
SXM Highlights: Which Western Team Is The Biggest Threat To The Warriors?
SXM Highlights: Which Western Team Is The Biggest Threat To The Warriors?
NBA DFS Breakdown: A Trio of Game 2s
NBA DFS Breakdown: A Trio of Game 2s
Yahoo DFS Basketball: Wednesday Picks
Yahoo DFS Basketball: Wednesday Picks
DraftKings NBA: Wednesday Cheat Sheet
DraftKings NBA: Wednesday Cheat Sheet