Good games, weird data

A deeply scientific look at five vital dates on the NBA calendar

A deeply scientific look at five vital dates on the NBA calendar

As the world crumbles around us and the plot of the first season of True Detective gains plausibility, we’re again looking for distraction. Yesterday, the NBA answered our prayers by releasing the full 2019 NBA schedule for every single team. While the marquee games and fascinating matchups may take all the headlines, I wanted to highlight five games.

November 12th: Kyrie Irving never loses to a full moon

On this spiritual of days, where lunar cycles flatten, gravity turns optional, and the moon reveals itself as the fraud we all know it to be, Kyrie and his Nets face off against the Utah Jazz. 

You, with your two eyes, one brain, and inability to grasp the world in all its complexity, had no idea the effect that lunar cycles had on Kyrie last year. I’m here to open your mind’s eye.

Last season, during his spiritual renaissance, Kyrie went 4-1 during full moons; major thanks to Time and Date, a real website, for knowing the moon phases and powering this investigatory journalism.

He beat the Hawks twice, as birds of prey no longer hunt in the brightness of a full moon. Kyrie dropped 26 points, 10 assists, and 8 steals on the heathens in Miami during a full moon in January.. Irving and the Celtics even won a playoff game on the road during April’s iteration. As they did not play during May’s, the lack of lunar enhancement cost them a championship.

November 12th will be a full moon, and we’ll see if Kyrie’s superpowers translate to his new Brooklyn stomping grounds.

November 20th: Steph Curry takes Reggie Miller down a peg

Steph currently sits third all-time in made three pointers at 2,483, per Basketball Reference. His next target on this list? Reggie Miller, former nemesis to the Knicks and current nemesis to anyone watching TNT. Miller hit 77 more threes than Curry. Given Steph’s historical rate of hitting long range bombs, this record will not last.

Could November 20th be the day that Steph finally catches Reggie? I looked at how his season might go with three levels of usage. One aggregates his production over the last four years, one that takes his career average, and a third that brings back fire-breathing 2015-16 Unanimous MVP Steph, who dropped 5.1 threes a game.

In the beautiful instance where we’re graced with flamethrower Steph, he’ll jump past Reggie in this Wednesday night matchup against Luka and the Mavericks. Subdued Steph waits another night to do it, while career average Curry takes all the way until the 22nd game to find glory. 

Curry also sits a mere 490 threes beyond the record holder, Ray Allen. To beat that mark, he’d need to average 6.5 threes a game in at least 75 games this year. With no KD, no Klay, and the greenest of lights, Curry just might pull it off.

November 22nd: Jokic vs Kanter, round II

In a playoffs full of twists and fun storylines–remember that Meyers Leonard game?–perhaps none shocked more than the evolution of Enes Kanter. Kanter went from roster debris in New York to a vital piece in Portland’s playoff rotation. The Trail Blazers knocked off the Nuggets, at Denver, in a brutal seven game slog. Kanter’s ability to play through a shoulder injury contributed to the series win. 

According to’s tracking stats, Kanter held Jokic to under 50% field goal percentage and 4.4 points less per 100 possessions. These tracking stats, imperfect for sure, do highlight some growth for Kanter, who historically had been seen as a turnstile defensively.

Yet, I mostly remember this series as the coronation of one of the strangest beefs in recent memory, as a slightly petulant Joker took out some frustrations on the ailing Kanter. You may recall Kanter’s plea for league intervention, helpfully summarized in this great Denver Post article:

Kanter left the Trail Blazers and brought his meme factory to Boston, where he’ll join his teammates on a trip to Denver in late November. Here’s hoping the drama comes, too, for this major date on the 2019 NBA schedule.

January 10th: Zion vs R.J., or LeBron vs Melo?

Don’t let a pessimistic Kevin Knox year in review post fool you; my irrational Knicks fan optimism can easily transition to the next young prospect with minimal delay. We welcome R.J. Barrett to New York with sky-high expectations and, we hope, slightly better infrastructure. 

January 10th marks the first matchup between Barrett and Zion Williamson, the top overall pick and most hyped prospect since potentially LeBron himself. Williamson brings ungodly athleticism, fan adoration, and the glory of a perfect star athlete first name. R.J. was drafted third like Melo, already faces critiques about his potentially selfish usage rate, and may also struggle to reach the standards that my insane fellow Knicks fans have already created.

I didn’t say this was a scientific comparison, but I do desperately hope that their meeting brings the same hype and energy that followed LeBron and Melo’s first matchup.

Melo won the first matchup 93 to 89, but neither guy produced the iconic performance we’d later come to expect. LeBron struggled through a 3 for 11 shooting night, ending up with 7 points, 11 boards, and 7 assists. Melo hit 35% of his own shots in victory, producing 14 points and 6 boards. 

Let’s hope that R.J. and Zion enthrall us a bit more in this marquee night of the 2019 NBA schedule.

February 1st: Is this a new Kristaps Porzingis?

Few players will face more uncertainty and pressure this season than the returning Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis forced a trade out of New York and now joins Luka Doncic in Dallas. Porzingis flashed world-breaking potential while a Knick, tantalizing with two-way promise and earning an All Star bid in 2018. An ACL tear has sidelined the big man for over a full season of play, and in a year full of questions, I’m curious to see if he can buck a troublesome tendency that has plagued his career so far.

Porzingis starts off red hot and consistently declines as the year goes on. This chart visualizes his average game score–Basketball Reference’s stat that calculates total value produced each game–for each month of the year, aggregated across his career.

Dallas’s game on February 1st against the Hawks just may be the moment of truth for Porzingis and the Mavs. If he’s ready to truly become a franchise cornerstone next to Doncic, he’ll have to avoid his typical late season collapse and keep his production high.

These five dates join countless others on a fun and fascinating 2019 NBA schedule.

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Jamie Larson