Jan 10, 2012, 8:15 AM EDT
These were supposed to be scheduled losses. The third game of the back-to-back-to-backs thrown at teams in this lockout-induced condensed schedule were supposed to be games where the players walked around, coaches threw up their hands and the season ticket holders wondered why they came.
Instead, teams are 6-0 in that third game so far this season. Take that schedule maker.
The Sacramento Kings fired their coach Paul Westphal before their third game, but still found a way to get the win for new guy Keith Smart. The Hawks had gone to triple overtime the first night against Miami, played Charlotte to overtime in the second game then in the third beat the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers dropped their first two but won the third looking like a desperate team that could not start the season 0-3.
“I think every team takes it as a challenge,” said Shane Battier, whose Miami Heat face theirs in mid-February. “Obviously, when you look at the schedule and say, `Man, I’ve got a back-to-back-to-back,’ it’s intimidating. But once you get in the arena, you take it as a personal challenge: `Hey, you know what, mentally weak teams are going to lose this third night. We’re going to come out and play well.’ So I think there’s a placebo effect almost that makes you play better on the third night of your back-to-back-to-back.”
There are 36 sets of back-to-back-to-backs remaining on the NBA schedule this season and teams are not going to win all those third games. But they will go in now knowing they can.