Outside the visitors' locker room at the Amway Center on Wednesday night, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called it a "no excuse season." After getting clobbered by 13 points at the hands of Dwight Howard and the Magic in the second game of a back-to-back series, the Heat coach refused to make excuses about the defeat, knowing that every team suffers from the ill-effects of a lockout-shortened season.
Welcome to the NBA's season-long hangover. Players are continually looking sluggish and rusty and desperately needing rest from the night before, as their minds and bodies bear the brunt of David Stern's condensed season. Although Spoelstra wouldn't attribute the deficit to playing on consecutive nights, his team is now just 4-4 in second games of back-to-backs and a league-best 15-3 in games with a day of rest.
We have heard a lot about the troubles of back-to-backs in a lockout-shortened season, but we haven't really put it under the test. So what can we learn about back-to-backs this season? Does rest really matter? Do older teams play better than young ones? Does continuity from year to year actually make a difference?
We looked for an answer to these questions with about 100 back-to-backs in the books, and the answers provide good news for some contenders -- and bad news for others.