The study analyzed 8,495 regular-season NBA games over eight seasons. The researchers did not find that jet lag had a major influence on the outcome of games.
But then they did a sub-analysis of 101 games in which one team traveled across the country to play. In these games, the visiting team did four points better when they traveled west to east rather than east to west.
This may not sound like a big difference. But during the last season studied, there was only a 3.2-point difference between winners and losers in NBA games. Four points could change the outcome of a game.
Why did the West Coast teams have an edge? The authors propose that it has to do with the timing of the games.
Research suggests that athletic performance may peak in the late afternoon. Performance may decline at night as sleepiness increases.
When a game tips off at 9 p.m. in Orlando, the Lakers will be playing at a “body-clock time” of 6 p.m. They may be more alert than the Magic players.
So the Lakers may have a better chance of stealing a game on the road. Then again, it was the East Coast Celtics who won a road game in Los Angeles on the way to a 4-2 series win in the 2008 Finals.
The Magic players aren’t the only ones who face an uphill battle in this series; their fans will be put to the test too.
The Orlando Sentinel reports today that the late tip-off times during the playoffs are depriving Magic fans of sleep. When it comes to sleep, Lakers fans have their own West Coast advantage.
Image by Dale Chumbley