Expert NBA Handicapping: Home and Road Differences
In the NBA, the difference between a competent team and a great one is their ability to play well on the road. If you want to make a deep playoff run, you need to limit the number of games you play, and that means winning well away from home - ideally to win half your games away from home. It's no coincidence that the Raptors and Nuggets, the current conference leaders, are also the strongest road team in each conference. As you'll soon see, you can certainly contend if you are not nearly as strong on the road as at home, but it certainly makes it tougher to love a team when they have a big gap between home and road success. Here are six teams with such a gap this year. None of these situations are great, but they are all better than Utah, which is a solid enough 9-7 on the road but a league-worst 2-6 at home. That shouldn't be possible.
Philadelphia (13-1 home, 4-7 road): Philadelphia has the best home record in the league but has struggled badly on the road. The one home loss is an incredibly ugly one, though - they somehow found a way to lose to the Cavaliers. What stands out when you look at the record in general, though, is how weak their schedule has been so far. They have yet to play an elite team at home. And though the road record has been tougher, they have avoided the biggest tests there as well. The team has won eight of nine overall, and three of their last four on the road, so they are finding their form overall - especially since the Jimmy Butler trade.
Milwaukee (11-2 home, 4-5 road): The story for the Bucks is the opposite of the Sixers - they started out really strong and have been less impressive since. They actually won their first two road games but have won just two of seven since. And while they have quality home wins against teams like Toronto, Denver and Portland, they most recently lost at home to Phoenix - which is very tough to do. Out of the gate it looked like this team was going to be a serious threat. Now they are just 8-7 in November and are falling behind Toronto at an alarming pace.
Golden State (11-2 home, 5-7 road): There is less to get concerned about here than in other cases - or at least the problems have less to do with where the games are played than they do with other factors. This is a team that is going through a fragile state, and they had lost six in a row away from home before winning at Atlanta - which hardly counts. They are banged up and have hurt feelings, and it's a little pathetic to watch. And don't make the mistake of thinking that everything is okay when they are at home. They just have played a particularly weak home schedule during this rough patch - Brooklyn, Atlanta, Sacramento and Orlando are all teams that Golden State could beat at home with no starters playing. The Warriors should shake this off and get back on track at some point - they are still the heavy favorites to win the conference and the championship. It helps their case that it's not like the other top teams in the West are tearing things up.
Dallas (9-2 home, 2-8 road): Thanks to the spectacular emergence of Luka Doncic, the Mavericks are ahead of schedule and are holding on to the final playoff spot at this moment. Really, this has less to do with geography than with form. Starting the season, they lost seven of nine, with both wins coming at home and five losses coming on the road. They have turned a massive corner since, though, going 9-3, with three road losses. It's like a whole new team. They have banked some key wins against Western powers, too - Golden State, Houston, the Clippers, and Oklahoma City.
New Orleans (9-3 home, 3-10 road): This is a maddeningly streaky team this year. They opened up 4-0. Then they dropped six straight. Then winning six of seven preceded losing six of eight. There are flashes of real strength - the won at Toronto and against Denver in their most recent strong stretch. But they just can't sustain it. Until they find a way to level out the process and find some consistency, they are just going to keep having issues.
Minnesota (10-4 home, 2-8 road): Some things just aren't coincidence. Before the Butler trade, the T-Wolves were a bleak 4-9 and were 0-8 on the road. They finished off a winless five-game trip right before the trade. Since then they are 8-3 overall and 2-0 on the road. The road wins are at Brooklyn and Cleveland, so we shouldn't get too excited, but the change this team has gone through just by excising the tumor that was growing in them is incredible.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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