There is a nasty patch in the NBA schedule that often starts around Christmas and runs until the All-Star break. Mental and physical fatigue, injuries, lineup disruptions and sometimes no obvious reason at all conspires to make the top NBA teams look rather pedestrian for a time.
The result can become somewhat humorous – assuming it isn’t happening to you. The media and fans speculating, calls for trades, benching and sometimes even calls for the coach’s head, but if one looks around, almost every top team in the NBA is going through exactly the same thing with few exceptions.
The list of teams that are currently winning over 60 percentage of their games that have been hit hard by the dog-days is almost all-inclusive and it doesn’t matter if your team is in the East or the West.
Toronto Raptors 35-17, Dog-days 11-10
After a hot start (almost redundant to say in this group of teams), the Raptors have gone 11-10 since December 28th. Blame the injury to DeMar DeRozan, blame the Western Conference road trip that kicked off slump, blame whatever. A three win eight loss slide raised all kinds of concerns, but like most of the teams on this list, they have gotten their act back together.
Washington Wizards 33-20, Dog-days 11-12
With 11 wins and 12 loses the Wizards are a game under .500 since December 29th, but they almost escaped the dog-days without such extensive damage. However, it was too much to ask for and they crashed and burned in a five game losing skid recently. It really does get tough at this time of year.
Chicago Bulls 32-20, Dog-days 10-11
At 10 wins and 11 losses, the Bulls are a game under .500 as well since December 29th. Chicago has had no real streaks since the end of December. It’s been win a few, lose a few in 2015. That All-Star break has to be looking pretty good right about now.
Cleveland 32-21, Dog-days 1-9?
The Cavaliers were one of the teams that did make what looked like panic moves and the short term view would have to be – change was good. Cleveland halted a 1 win 9 loss skid with 12 wins in a row and head into the all-Star break on a positive vibe with two games remaining. The only question with the Cavaliers is: was that a dog-days slide, the LeBron James effect, or does this team just alternate winning and losing streaks to torture their coach (and fans)?
Memphis Grizzlies 38-13, Dog-days 4-7
The Grizzlies have looked nearly unflappable, but even they hit a rough patch losing four games in a row and seven of 11 games between December 19th and January 9th. If you want a more recent dog-days loss, the Grizzlies dropped a game to the 11-41 Timberwolves last week after winning eight games in a row.
Houston Rockets 35-16, Dog-days 10-9
The Rockets have injury issues, but they aren’t alone and won’t find any sympathy among their opponents. After an overtime win in Denver on December 17th, Houston hit a stretch where they won 10 games and lost 9 games. They have picked it back up since.
Portland Trail Blazers 35-17, Dog-days 5-9
The Trail Blazers had 30 wins and eight losses on January 11th, but they were not about to escape the dog-days unscathed. A five win and nine loss stretch has brought them back to the pack among the NBA’s top teams.
Dallas Mavericks 35-19, Dog-days 9-9
Dallas has a very good team, but they are a very ordinary 9 wins and 9 losses after January 5th.
Los Angeles Clippers 34-19, Dog-days 2-5
The Clippers looked like they were going to skate through the dog-days until an eight game road trip jumped up to bite them. Since the loss to the Raptors on December 27th, the Clippers had gone 11 wins and three losses up until the Grammy road trip where they picked up five more losses. They also lost All-Star Blake Griffin for a few weeks which is undoubtedly the bigger deal.
No Dog-Days Allowed
Atlanta Hawks 43-10
The Hawks went 17-0 in January and have only lost two games in 2015.
Golden State Warriors 41-9
The Warriors have lost four games in 2015 and compared to the rest of their season, that qualifies as a slump – sort of – if one squints real hard and they are just five wins and three losses over their last eight games. Suffering? Hardly.
It should be obvious that the dog-days of the NBA have hit every top team except two and that’s why the Hawks and the Warriors reside comfortably atop their respective conferences.
As per usual, it’s not the dog-days of the NBA season that will determine most teams fates, the post All-Star stretch will set seeding and expectations for this year’s playoffs once again.