Thunder set for two Los Angeles back-to-backs as NBA optimizes its scheduling

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The Thunder will play in five back-to-back sets on the road next season, but two of those barely qualify.

Oklahoma City will take on the Clippers and Lakers at Staples Center on consecutive nights twice in the 2019-20 season, a luxury the Thunder didn’t have on any back-to-back last season.

That scheduling trick is part of the NBA’s effort to improve the schedule. This year, Monday’s schedule release revealed that the league had succeeded again, with an emphasis on limiting back-to-backs and late national broadcasts.

“One of the reasons that we were able to accomplish this was an issue of time,” Evan Wasch, NBA senior vice president of basketball strategy and analytics, told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck on The Full 48 podcast.

“That we were much more efficient with our process, had so much buy in from the teams, with our network partners, that we can move through different stages of this process more quickly, which allows for that time for the computer to go find the better possible candidate schedules and allows for us to have the time to go tweak them and finalize them the way we need.”

The Thunder is scheduled to play 13 back-to-backs (five road/road, six home/road and two home/home), which is on the high end for teams this season, and one more than OKC played last year. But the no-travel back-to-backs help alleviate wear and tear on players.

Overall, the NBA cut the number of back-to-backs to an average of 12.4 per team. That’s down from 13.3 last season. The NBA has reached all-time back-to-back-set lows in each of the past five seasons. Just before then, in 2014-15, teams averaged 19.3 back-to-backs each. This year, the league also eliminated stretches of four games in five days for the third straight season.

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