West/East gap isn't only schedule imbalance

Despite a less-than-favorable schedule, the Hawks are still the Eastern Conference's top seed. Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Western Conference teams have been privately (and not so privately) complaining for years about the gulf in top-to-bottom class between the West and East.

They've been grumbling about how much better East teams have it because they each get 52 regular-season games against weaker overall competition ... while West teams with win totals in the mid-to-high 40s routinely miss the playoffs.

They've pined for something resembling a balanced scheduled. Or tweaks to the playoff format, at the very least, that ensured trips to the postseason for the 16 teams with the best records.

Less discussed -- until now -- is the very wide (and mysterious) disparity league-wide when it comes to some of the most coveted games on any team's schedule: Playing after a night off against a team on the second half of a back-to-back.

The Dallas Mavericks, for example, had played a whopping 18 such games through Wednesday's play.

The Washington Wizards had played an East-leading 17.

The Atlanta Hawks, by contrast, are running away with the East's No. 1 seed despite playing only three such games to date.

LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, had only played four games with a one-night rest edge heading into Thursday night's schedule.

‎Imagine how the teams feel at the tail end of the wild West playoff chase. Oklahoma City and New Orleans have played just seven and six games this season, respectively, against a team on the second night of a back-to-back while coming off a night of rest.

Several fewer, in other words, than the Mavericks.

It would be even worse for the Thunder and Pelicans, though, if the Mavs weren't so wasteful with those scheduling gifts. Dallas has won just 10 of those 18 games against tired teams. The league average for playoff teams in those situations is .702 ball; Washington, for example, has won 13 of its 17 games with an extra night of rest.

Below is a complete list of how many games each team has played so far this season with a night of rest against a team completing a back-to-back set.

We've also included last season's breakdown, too, which reveals that the Los Angeles Clippers played nearly a third of their 2013-14 games with a decided rest advantage ‎... while Michael Jordan's then-Charlotte Bobcats played only five out of 82 games under those favorable conditions.