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Does the NBA have a bias against the Heat in favor of the Magic?

I received an interesting question from one of our faithful readers that's observed something recently that perhaps you might have as well...

Have you noticed something odd about visiting team schedules in Florida? So far, as best I can tell, the Heat get the first game of a visiting team’s back to back swing through Florida and the Magic get the second most of the time. A casual search for historical records on the % wins for teams playing the second game of a back to back shows that the odds are statistically against winning the second game as opposed to the first. We already know the league went out of their way to schedule the Heat a tough season opening schedule and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bias in favor of giving Orlando the benefit of getting the visiting team second after the Heat the majority of the time.

Jack

I've noticed the same thing myself and mentioned it in passing on the ReHeat of the recent Milwaukee Bucks game. So I did a little investigative research on the topic (okay I just carefully analyzed the Magic and the Heat's schedule) and came away with a few observations...
  • What you've noticed is that the Heat just ended a five game streak where opponents played them first and the Magic second. Starting on December 4th, the Hawks lost to the Heat and then beat the Magic two days later. Both teams lost against the Mavs, the Heat on the 20th and the Magic on the 21st. The Knicks then lost to both teams, in Miami on the 28th and in Orlando on 12/30. Golden State lost in Miami on New Year's Day and then lost to the Magic two days later on the third of January. The Bucks just lose to the Heat on the 4th and to the Magic the next day on the 5th.
  • Prior to that streak however, both teams played the same opponent six times and were the opening team an equal three times.
  • The next four times the same opponent must play both the Heat and Magic consecutively, the opening team is also split down the middle with two each.
  • The schedule then evens out at the end of the season with Miami getting the second game of these sets four straight times. These set of opponents are stronger than the Magic's recent streak with the Bulls, Blazers, Nuggets and finally Bobcats scheduled to play in Miami after visiting Orlando.
  • All told, the Heat must play the visiting team first ten times and the Magic do it nine times so ultimately it's clear there is no bias, just a recent stretch of games that made it appear to be the case. If anything, the Heat get the preferential streak that closes out their season which gives them a bit of an edge over these teams while trying to secure home court advantage for the playoffs.
  • Furthermore, out of these 19 sets of games there are six pairs of games that are not back-to-back and are played with a day of rest in between. Three of them just occurred during this recent streak so the Magic didn't get as much of an advantage as you might have thought (Hawks, Knicks, Warriors). The Clippers than play in Miami on February 6th and Orlando on the 8th. Chicago visits Orlando on March 4th and Miami on the 6th. Charlotte does the same on the 6th and 8th of March.
  • I didn't even count this as a set but the Pistons play in Orlando on the 24th of January and then in Miami on the 28th. The NBA wasn't very "green" in this part of the schedule because they also host the Denver Nuggets in between those two games on the 26th.

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