The Dallas Mavericks had few problems with the Miami Heat during the regular season.
But if what Dr. Paul Ingmundson, a clinical director at San Antonio`s Alamo Sleep Disorders Center, believes is true, the Heat were behind the eight ball before they stepped on the court.
Ingmundson, who is also a a diplomate with the American Board of Sleep Medicine, says western-based teams may have an advantage in sporting events in which cross-country road trips are involved. He has found that a disruption in eastern teams` circadian rhythms – or internal clocks – may contribute directly to poor performances like Miami`s versus Dallas.
"The mechanism is relatively straightforward, at least superficially," explains Ingmundson. "Performance on many cognitive and motor tasks peaks in late afternoon. Teams travelling west to east to play night games are playing with their biological clocks set earlier, close to the most favorable time, and teams traveling from east to west are playing at relatively later point in their biological "day," conferring a relative handicap."
In layman`s terms, that essentially means that travel is tougher on teams traveling east to west, a factor that oddsmakers obviously do not account for.
The recent history between the Heat and the Mavericks seems to back up Ingmundson`s theory.
Take the Mavs` 112-76 win in Dallas in November as an example. If what Ingmundson says is true, the Heat would`ve struggled with their biological clock set an hour ahead and by the time the second half rolled around the Heat would be thinking of bed instead of a basketball game.
The fact that Dallas outscored Miami 61-38 in the final 24 minutes would seem to support that.
The opposite would be true for the Mavs` 103-90 win in Miami in late November. Traveling from west to east, an 8 p.m. ET tip-off would have been 7 p.m. in Dallas. That would be of huge benefit to the Mavs, who would`ve been playing closer to late afternoon, the time previous studies have determined athletes are at their peak athletic performance.
Dallas outscoring Miami 57-45 in the first half helps bolster this hypothesis.
Want more proof? How about a research study conducted by Kyle Steenland with the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety and James A. Deddens, a mathematician with the University of Cincinnati, who looked at 8495 NBA games from 1987 to 1995 to determine the affects travel and rest had on the outcome.
The report discovered that teams traveling from west to east fared better than teams traveling the opposite direction by more than four points per game. To make sure the travel pattern was the only differentiating factor, the two researchers looked only at games in which neither team had played for at least two days and only the visiting team had traveled to get there.
The evidence of a west-to-east advantage is even more dramatic when it comes to the NFL and Ingmundson cites another study, this one by a group of Stanford researchers (Roger S.Smith, Christian Guilleminault and Bradley Efron at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic), as proof.
The three researchers took results from Monday Night Football for the years 1970-1994 and found that the West Coast teams won 63.5 percent of the games, while their eastern counterparts won only 36.5 percent. They also found that western teams won more decisively, by an average of 14.7 points, an important note for bettors playing the favorite.
While this could easily be passed off as west coast teams, such as the 49ers and Raiders for example, being superior to their East Coast rivals of the era, there are other trends to suggest it’s more than that.
For the games studied, the overall winning percentages of