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Breaking down the NBA's back-to-back-to-back series

By John Rohde, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: January 7, 2012
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When OKC is finished playing the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder will become the sixth NBA team to complete the dreaded back-to-back-to-back.

For some, the three-day expedition will be a monumental task. For others, the degree of difficulty could be far less overwhelming.

As is often the case in the NBA, it's all in the timing.

Playing a BTBTB early in the season is a better proposition in terms of energy, but can be frustrating if your team is slow to jell.

Playing a BTBTB late in the season will be a lingering black cloud, but could be beneficial if you're facing teams that have given up hope by the time you meet.

There are other mitigating circumstances, such as injuries, suspensions, inclement weather and DeMarcus Cousins (i.e., potential coaching changes).

All 30 teams will play at least one BTBTB and 12 teams will play two.

A look at some of the more intriguing aspects:

Least demanding BTBTB: Indiana Pacers. The Pacers play three nondescript teams in Washington, Phoenix and Milwaukee from March 22-24, which could indirectly result in a Spring Break feel. Indiana should survive with ease. After all, the NBA believes the Pacers are loaded. Indiana had six players placed on the All-Star ballot last Wednesday and later that same day lost by 35 in Miami with no Dwyane Wade and a hobbled LeBron James.

The Oklahoma City Thunder is the runner-up here. The Thunder plays back-to-back against struggling Houston, followed by a home game against San Antonio with no Manu Ginobili.

Most demanding BTBTB: Denver Nuggets, and it's not even close. The Nuggets could have stayed inside the same building to commence their second three-step of the season. Denver plays the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 2 inside Staples Center. Rather than stick around to face the other team down the hall, Denver must fly back home to play the LA Lakers on Feb. 3, then fly to Portland to play the Trail Blazers on Feb. 4. That's three playoff teams in three nights in three cities.

Wait, there's more. All three games are nationally televised. The first two will start at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time and the third at 8. The Nuggets should get back home from LA sometime around 4 a.m. local. After playing in Portland, the Nuggets fly back home to play Houston on Feb. 6.

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