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Rest Vs Rust NBA Breakdown: Denver Nuggets (9-Days) Vs. Miami Heat (2-Days)

Garrett Ellwood. Getty Images.

Nothing like a good ole rest vs rust battle within the battle for the 2023 NBA Finals. If you didn't remember, the Denver Nuggets are actually still in the playoffs after being on a 9-day hiatus doing who knows what. I'd have been on an island somewhere drinking Pina Coladas every day which may explain why I didn't make the NBA. But what a flex it'd be if Jokic walks in with a tank top, straw hat, and a sick pair of raccoon eyes during "First Looks" tonight. 

That's where the rest vs rust battle comes into play. Is it better to get time off to relax, or do you need to keep the machine in motion? The Nuggets have had 9-days in-between games while the Heat had just two. That's a pretty wild difference which leads one to think having rest is better. Since this is not a 538 blog, we'll go ahead and pretend the fact that better teams are more likely to earn more rest plays no role here. But that's not always the case! In fact, the last time a team started a series with 9-days rest vs an opponent with two days was the rested underdog San Antonio Spurs for Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals. While they would win Game 1, they would go on to lose the series to none other than the…

Miami Heat!

Interesting… Let's go ahead and see all such instances of a team with 9-days rest vs a team with 2-days in NBA playoff history:

Note: If (like me) you are not a million years old, don't be thrown off by the Boston Celtics/Houston Rockets 1979-80. That had me worried I completely screwed up my data. This wasn't the Finals matchup between these teams in 1981, but evidently Houston was in the East until the following year when the NBA moved Houston to the West which must have been a subcontracting nightmare of an endeavor.

Game 1 results are shown and teams that won the series are in green while series losers are in red. As you can see, teams are 6-2 in Game 1s but only 4-4 for the entire series. And look who else joined the party? The 9-days rested Denver Nuggets in 1977. So the Miami Heat are literally undefeated (1-0) in playoffs series where they have 2-days rest vs an opponent with 9-days rest, and the Denver Nuggets are literally unfeated (0-1) in series they have 9-days rest vs a team with 2-days. This is what we in statistics call a sample size. 

What does one do with a stat like this? If you're a Nuggets fan, you scoff at how preposterous, random, and meaningless it is. If you're a Heat fan, you take this as the universe showing us the signs of destiny like a sorority girl does horoscopes. I mean, no one thinks the Heat stand a chance in this series, but I guess that goes for pretty much all the others since they are a piddly little 8-seed. Heat Culture will take whatever they can get. 

Did Denver make a big mistake in sweeping the Lakers? Did Spoelstra take a dive for three games against Boston to make sure his guys were still oiled up like they were in 2013? We'll probably find out right when the Heat tell us what motivational video they watched before Game 7 (I never saw a more blatant "I will kill you if you ask one more time" shoulder touch than what Spo put on Ernie Johnson in the postgame trophy ceremony). 

Anyway, we're all knotted up at four as the battle of rest vs rust reaches Game 9 (or I guess series 9) for all the marbles. Make sure you check out my future NBA analytics blogs that continue to cover all the stats that provide you literally nothing actionable. 

- Jeffro