Schedule alert! Who should be on notice in April?

We offer a cornucopia of statistics in these schedule alert dispatches that, hopefully, help show how fatigue can seriously hinder performance during the grueling NBA grind.

But here is one figure that is far more jarring than any lopsided final score, dreadful shooting percentage or eye-popping turnover total: Two.

As in, there have now been two NBA head coaches who have stepped aside this season for severe health issues related to chronic sleep loss.

On March 19, Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue announced he was stepping aside to focus on his health, saying in a statement, "I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year."

Lue, who hopes to return at some point this season, had also been coughing up blood, team sources told ESPN's Dave McMenamin.

"I ain't slept in days," Lue said back in November.

Earlier this season, Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford also stepped aside for health reasons, missing 21 games for severe headaches caused by what his doctors declared to be sleep deprivation, as we noted in our February schedule alert dispatch.

"Sleep is a big deal," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters in the wake of Lue's announcement. "There's a lot of recovery that goes on when you're resting, and you need that."

On that note, we highly recommend checking out this insightful NBA.com piece from David Aldridge that focuses on the above issue. It also surveyed NBA head coaches about how much sleep they get, if it's enough and how, if not, it affects them.

This response stood out: "One coach who gets six hours on average per night said he's 'tired and fatigued all the time.' He would love to get more sleep, but it's almost impossible. He tries to compensate by taking naps on game days for half an hour up to 45 minutes."

Now, on to some other statistics.

We correctly picked nine of 12 games in March and, so far this season, have correctly picked 41 of 53 games. As we've said in every dispatch since the beginning, our success rate -- which sits at 77.4 percent -- is notably higher than where our schedule alert formula suggested we'd be at this point. (Here is where we note that we applied that formula to 10 seasons' worth of games -- from 2007-08 through 2016-17 -- and the results showed that teams facing schedule alert situations with a MahScore of 8 or higher lose 63 percent of the time.)

As always, the strength of the team, which players are available or any other factors unrelated to the schedule are not taken into account in our formula.

A couple of notables:

  • Of the 41 schedule alert games lost so far this season, schedule alert teams have lost by an average of 13.4 points.

  • Of those 41 schedule alert losses, 11 have been by 21 or more points, and 16 have come by at least 15 points.

  • Of the 11 teams that won schedule alert games so far this season, nine of those teams are currently ranked in the top 10 of the Western Conference.

  • Only one non-Western Conference team has won a schedule alert game this season: Miami.

We'll have more numbers recapping how teams performed in schedule alert games in the coming days, including a wrap-up after our final 2017-18 game this month.

For now, here's a preview of April's lone schedule alert game -- the last of the 2017-18 regular season -- and below that are recaps of such games for March:

April 9: Orlando at Milwaukee | MahScore: 8

This game would seem brutal any day of the year for a team in the Magic's position, but it feels especially cruel given that it falls in their next-to-last game of the season.

The Magic will be playing their fifth game in seven days, third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set here. They will have played in Toronto the night before, on April 8, then will fly out immediately afterward -- gaining an hour along the way -- to Milwaukee to face the Bucks the next night. The Bucks, meanwhile, will enter this game with a one-day rest advantage.

March schedule alerts

Timberwolves lose to the Jazz 116-108 in Salt Lake City on March 2

MahScore: 9.5

Well, this one was spicy!

As we've noted here before, it's not unusual to see technical fouls or ejections from teams that are on schedule alert.

Sleep doctors will tell you that lack of rest affects the parts of the brain that control emotional reaction and judgment, so you are more likely to lose control of your temper and respond emotionally if, say, you don't like an officiating decision.

So, one might not be too surprised to learn that two Timberwolves players were ejected from this game -- big man Karl-Anthony Towns late in the first half for arguing with the referees and guard Jeff Teague late in the game for hip-checking Jazz guard Ricky Rubio into the courtside seats. Jazz forward Jae Crowder was also ejected after jawing with Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who also received a technical foul in a heated game that featured five of them.

But if the Timberwolves were a bit frayed and thus on edge, well, you can't blame them. They lost to the Trail Blazers in Portland the night before, a nationally televised game which naturally ended later than most games. Then the Timberwolves flew out immediately after -- losing an hour along the way -- for Salt Lake City, where they would close out a back-to-back against a Jazz team that had been off for three ... whole... days.

So the ingredients added up to a Jazz win, right? Especially with this being a red alert affair?

Jazz coach Quin Snyder tried to temper such talk before the game, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, when he said, "I think back-to-backs are overrated. Obviously it's a factor, but we've had, on our end, back-to-backs where we've played well and won. So I don't think you can say, 'A team is on a back-to-back, they're going to be tired that way.' I don't think it's the best way to prepare yourself for the game."

Snyder is partially right. But it's also a factor, as he admits, and it's one that can't be overlooked, especially if you consider certain energy/effort-related statistics -- via ESPN Stats & Information -- that jump off the page.

A caveat: Yes, we know that losing Towns early in the game is a crucial element as to why the following numbers are so lopsided, but it's not the only reason.

  • The Timberwolves had two offensive rebounds, their fewest in a game in franchise history.

  • The Jazz outscored the Timberwolves 19-0 on second-chance points. It's the second game this season in which the Timberwolves have been held scoreless on second-chance points.

Nuggets beat the Cavaliers 126-117 in Cleveland on March 3

MahScore: 8

We'll get to this game lickety-split, but first, after it was over, Nuggets coach Mike Malone was explaining his team's performance, factoring in the fact they played the night before, when he paused.

"Is today Friday or Saturday?" Malone asked reporters, according to the Denver Post. "I knew it was a weekend night."

It was a Saturday, but Malone's question harks back to our intro from March, when we noted how common disorientation can be during hectic stretches of the NBA schedule.

With that out of the way, let's break down the game ourselves -- and how Denver showed some serious grit in its league-high sixth and final schedule alert game of the 2017-18 season. (Denver's record in such games: 2-4.)

The Nuggets, who are making a late-season playoff push, came out white hot, scoring 73 points in the first half and leading by as many as 15 in the third quarter.

They finished with 19 3-pointers (their second most all season), 35 assists (their third most all season) and shot 54.7 percent from the field (their third-highest such figure all season).

Yet the Cavaliers charged back, and with 2:40 to play in the fourth quarter, Cleveland cut a double-digit lead to one point. From there, though, the Nuggets locked in, making all four of their shots to close the game while the Cavs missed three of their final four the rest of the way.

While praising the Nuggets for such an impressive effort under difficult circumstances, it's also worth considering, ever so briefly, the fact that their offensive outburst came against an atrocious defense. Cleveland entered the game ranked 28th in defensive efficiency. Since the Cavaliers' new players made their debuts on Feb. 11, Cleveland is allowing 1.49 points per chance on transition, second most of any team over that span, according to Second Spectrum data.

With that said, much credit is owed to the Nuggets for battling back.

"We put big numbers up," Malone said, according to the Post. "... But to do it in a game where it's a back-to-back and you're not in your bed until 3 o'clock in the morning speaks volumes about our guys understanding where we are right now in the season and the importance of every game."

Pistons lose to the Heat 105-96 in Miami on March 3

MahScore: 8

This marked the Pistons' fifth game in seven days, their third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set after facing the Magic in Orlando the night before.

The Heat, meanwhile, entered this game with a one-day rest advantage and were on the eighth day of a 10-day homestand.

As one might expect, the Heat took an 18-point lead after outscoring their guests 47-20 during a 17-minute span in the first half.

While the Pistons got big performances from Blake Griffin (31 points) and Andre Drummond (22 points and 18 rebounds), they got little from anyone else. Their guards combined to shoot 17-for-51 from the field and 4-for-18 from 3-point range, as noted by the Detroit Free Press.

The Pistons also had 19 turnovers and fell to 1-13 in their last 14 games on the road.

As noted by the Associated Press, Griffin played 36 minutes, during which the Pistons outscored the Heat by seven. But in the 12 minutes that Griffin sat, the Heat outscored the Pistons by 16.

"We played Blake into exhaustion," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said afterward. "We just struggled playing without him. He was dominant and every time he was out, we struggled."

Grizzlies lose to the Mavericks 114-80 in Dallas on March 10

MahScore: 9

We expected this one to be ugly, as it registered as one of our grueling "red alert" games, but this was quite a brutal beatdown.

The Grizzlies were playing their fifth game in eight days, their third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set. They hosted the Utah Jazz the night before, then headed out afterward for Dallas, where they faced a Mavericks squad that entered the game with a huge three-day rest advantage.

The Mavericks led 31-13 after the first quarter and allowed their fewest points in any half this season while building a 56-30 halftime lead.

In all, it went into the ledger as the Mavericks' largest margin of victory this season.

Wizards lose to the Heat 129-102 in Miami on March 10

MahScore: 8


The Wizards were playing their third game in five days and the second of a back-to-back set, having played in New Orleans the night prior before flying out afterward -- losing an hour along the way -- to face the Heat the next day.

But even then, this was quite an ugly affair, even as far as schedule alert games go, as the Wizards had their five-game winning streak snapped while the Heat registered their highest-scoring regular-season game since Oct. 13, 2013.

"It's definitely embarrassing," said Wizards guard Jodie Meeks. "There's no excuses for being tired."

With the loss, the Wizards have lost four straight and five of their past six games on the second leg of a back-to-back set, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Thunder beat the Hawks 119-107 in Atlanta on March 13

MahScore: 8

There the Thunder were, down 66-54 at halftime, after giving up a 38-point second quarter.

Oklahoma City was playing its fifth game in eight days, third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set, having hosted the Kings the night prior, then flying out immediately afterward -- losing an hour along the way -- for Atlanta to face the Hawks less than 24 hours later.

The Hawks, meanwhile, were on a one-day rest advantage.

In what was the Thunder's only schedule alert game of the season, it made sense that they had fallen into such a hole, even though it was against a far inferior opponent that at one point was playing three first-year players and another who had played only four games prior to this season.

But fatigue or not, deficit or not, the Thunder have Russell Westbrook and are making a playoff push, so they weren't about to let the lottery-bound Hawks trample over them.

Westbrook recorded his 100th triple double -- 32 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds -- and helped spark a key 16-0 Thunder run that carried OKC to the win.

Lakers lose to the Warriors 117-106 in Oakland on March 14

MahScore: 8

This wasn't the prettiest affair -- not that many of these games are -- but the Warriors were missing three All-Stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) because of injury.

The Lakers were playing their fifth game in eight days, third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set. They hosted the Denver Nuggets the night before, then flew to face the defending champions, who entered this game with a two-day rest advantage.

But the Warriors still had Kevin Durant (26 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) and received a strong all-around effort from their role players, with seven players scoring in double figures.

The Warriors also opened the third quarter on a 21-7 run and made seven of their first eight field goals without any points from Durant, as the Associated Press noted.

What happened to the Lakers during that stretch -- or for much of the second half?

"I think we finally gave in to a little bit of fatigue," said Lakers coach Luke Walton. "The guys just looked tired. I think they did a good job of trying to fight, trying to find it. Every time we made a run, they would get it back-cut or an offensive rebound and kick out. Durant kind of had his way with us, which he does with most teams. It felt like, to me, at the end of the day, we ran out of gas a little bit."

Kings lose to the Jazz 103-97 in Salt Lake City on March 17

MahScore: 9

The night before this game, Kings coach Dave Joerger stood before reporters in Oakland, not long before his team was slated to face the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were banged up, missing three of their All-Stars due to injury: Thompson, Curry and Durant. So what would it be like facing such a different lineup, Joerger was asked.

And then he took the interview in an entirely different direction.

"We're just trying to survive," Joerger said. "Five games in seven nights. Five different cities, three different time zones. How we prepare ourselves, not having a practice day yesterday, not having a shootaround this morning, still having a breakfast meeting. We're just trying to plug away and get guys ready to compete. You know you're going to Utah to play them tomorrow, and they're sitting there resting."

Indeed, Joerger perfectly illustrated the many challenges his team would be facing not against the Warriors but against the Jazz the next night in Salt Lake City.

So after facing the Warriors, the Kings would immediately fly out -- losing an hour along the way -- to Salt Lake City to face a Jazz squad that would enter this game with a one-day rest advantage.

The Kings were competitive for much of the night but managed just 18 points in the fourth quarter, when it seemed like they ran out of gas, as teams often do in these situations -- and as Joerger seemed to foreshadow the night before.

Raptors lose to the Cavaliers 132-129 in Cleveland on March 21

MahScore: 8

Everything was going so well for the Raptors. They dropped 38 points in the first quarter, then 41 in the second -- equaling a season-high 79 first-half points. Even better, they held a 15-point lead at intermission.

And then the second half came, and, as we know, that's when teams who are on schedule alert start to feel a little ... tired. But you can't blame the Raptors. They were playing their fifth game in seven days, third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set. They played in Orlando the night before, then headed out after to make the not-so-short flight to Cleveland, where the Cavaliers would enter this game with a one-day rest advantage.

In the third quarter, the Raptors were outscored by 14. Then they were outscored by four more in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost. Credit is due to their opponent and especially LeBron James, who tallied 35 points, 17 assists and nary a single turnover.

"Disgraceful display of defense by us," Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. "We've got to be better than that."

Clippers beat the Bucks 127-120 in Milwaukee on March 21

MahScore: 8

The Clippers talked a lot about energy after this one.

"We've got to be one team, one unit and play with high energy and compete," Clippers guard Austin Rivers said. "Let's play harder than the other team."

His father, Doc, the Clippers' coach, also praised the high energy that his team played with from the outset.

"The first seven minutes of basketball was as well as we've played all year," Doc Rivers said.

All credit to the Clippers, who are fighting for a playoff spot, for mustering up energy in this game, considering the circumstances. It marked their fifth game in seven days, their third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set. They played the Timberwolves in Minnesota the night before, then headed out afterward for Milwaukee, where the Bucks entered this game with a one-day rest advantage.

But the Clippers scored 38 first-quarter points, received 25 points and 22 rebounds from DeAndre Jordan and held off a late Bucks run.

Hawks lose to the Warriors 106-94 in Oakland on March 23

MahScore: 9

This marked our ninth and final "red alert" game of 2017-18 -- the designation we bestow on schedule alert games where one team faces an especially steep challenge thanks to the schedule.

The Hawks certainly qualified in that regard. They were playing their fifth game in seven days, their third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set. After playing in Sacramento the night before, the Hawks made the short trek over to Oakland to face the defending champions, who entered this game with a -- wait for it -- three-day rest advantage.

Three days!

Given that the Warriors were banged up, and lost Curry late in this game, the final score was somewhat reasonable and not the bloodbath it could've been if all things were equal.

The Hawks actually held a 51-43 lead at halftime, but the Warriors blitzed them soon after, scoring 36 points in the third quarter to take control. The Hawks wilted from there.

Bulls lose to the Pistons 117-95 in Detroit on March 24

MahScore: 8

Well, Bulls, the good news is you won't play in any schedule alert games until next season.

The bad news is you failed to win a single schedule alert game in 2017-18, going 0-4.

This game marked the Bulls' fifth game in eight days, their third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set. They hosted the Bucks the night before, then headed out immediately afterward -- losing an hour along the way -- for Detroit to face the Pistons less than 24 hours later. The Pistons entered this game with a one-day rest advantage.

And this game was over pretty much from the start, with the Pistons building a 36-20 lead in the first quarter and cruising from there.

"Well it is tough," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said about the Bulls trailing by double digits early, "but you have to find a way to fight through the fatigue and go out and muster up some energy."