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Inside the Numbers: NBA’s best season openers

Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

The 2016-17 NBA season tips off three weeks from today on October 25. There will be three games that night: the New York Knicks at the Cleveland Cavaliers; the San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors; and the Utah Jazz travel to Portland to face the Trailblazers. Not only have the Spurs been one of the best teams in the NBA over the past several years, but they have been the best team when it comes to season openers. In the last 20 seasons, the Spurs have won 17 of their season openers, an 85 percent winning percentage.

In fact, if you look at the history of the NBA, the Spurs have the best season opener record of all time at 28-12, a winning percentage of 70, which is the best all-time.

Let’s take a look at each of the current 30 NBA franchises and their season-opening averages over the past 20 campaigns. (It might surprise you to see which team ranks second to the Spurs in this stat!)

San Antonio, 17-3, .850
Minnesota 15-5, .750
L.A. Lakers, 14-6, .700
Miami, Dallas, 13-7, .650
New Orleans, 9-5, .643
Boston, Detroit, Indiana, 12-8, .600
N.Y. Knicks, Orlando, Portland, Toronto, 11-9, .550
Chicago, Houston, Oklahoma City, Utah, 10-10, .500
Brooklyn, Denver, 9-11, .450
Charlotte, 8-10, .444
Golden State, L.A. Clippers, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Sacramento, 8-12, .400
Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington, 7-13, .350
Memphis, 2-18, .100

If we go all the way back in NBA history, the Spurs, as mentioned above, have the best season opener record of all current franchises. In fact, there are seven teams that have a winning average of .600 or better in season openers all-time: They are: Spurs (.700), Pelicans (.643), Lakers (.618), Celtics (.614), 76ers (.612), Trailblazers (.609) and the Knicks (.600).

Two teams have a season opener winning average under .300 all-time; the Grizzlies have the worst mark at 3-18 (.143), and the Cavs are at 13-33 (.283).

Some teams have the good fortune of playing their season opener at home while others find themselves on the road for their first game of the season. The two teams with the best season opener records in the past 20 years, the Spurs and Timberwolves, have been at home for their season opener for 14 and 15 games respectively in the past 20 seasons. The Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, have had only one season opener at home in the past 20 season, and that was last year; they lost that season opener.

Nine teams have one an average of .700 or above since 1996-97 in their season openers at home. The Indiana Pacers, who open their 2016-17 campaign at home on October 26, are 6-0 in season openers as hosts the last  20 seasons.

The Spurs are 13-1 since 1996-97, but they will open on the road this season. The T’Wolves are 12-3, but they open on the road this season as well.

The other six teams with averages of .700 or above in season openers at home since 1996-97: Portland (7-2 .778), Kings (6-2 .75), Heat (10-4 .714), and the Rockets, Thunder and Pistons (all 7-3 .700).

Only two teams have are better than .700 or above as the road team for a season opener (since 1996-97). The Lakers are 3-0 (1.000), and the Mavericks are 7-3 (.700). Four teams are under .200 as the road team in season openers in the past 20 seasons: the Kings (2-12 .167), Jazz (1-6 .143), Charlotte (1-6, .143) and Memphis (0-5, .000).


Inside the Numbers: NBA’s best season openers

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