2019 NBA Finals
2019 NBA Finals

Road Warriors: For first time in five Finals, Golden State opens title series on road

Golden State has shown knack for winning playoff series away from Oracle

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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May 29, 2019 1:53 AM ET

 

The Warriors have won three titles in four Finals trips, but face their first road disadvantage.

For the first time in five straight trips to The Finals, the Golden State Warriors are not facing the Cleveland Cavaliers. And for the first time in these same five postseasons, the Warriors are not starting The Finals at home. In fact, this is just the second of 20 total series over the last five years that the Warriors will start on the road.

The Toronto Raptors, their first conference championship in hand, have home-court advantage, thanks to a lone regular-season victory. Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 are set for Scotiabank Arena should the series go the distance.

Not many playoff series, in The Finals or otherwise, go the distance. Only 134 (25 percent) of the 542 best-of-seven series in NBA history have been decided in Game 7. And in only 21 (16 percent) of those has the home team won all seven games. Overall, the road team has picked off at least one game 96 percent of the time in best-of-seven playoff series.

 
The Warriors hope to extend their dynasty with a 2019 Finals series win.

Of course, that's one of the two teams winning on the road. And here's where the Warriors run has been special: Through the 2019 Western Conference finals, Golden State has won at least one road game in 22 consecutive series, going back to the first round in 2013 (the first playoff series for Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green).

For context, over a 22-year playoff streak, the San Antonio Spurs have won at least one road game in 43 (80 percent) of the 54 series they've played. Plus, their longest streak during that time only reached 13 series.

The Warriors have showcased a special ability to close on the road. Of the 18 series they've won over the last five postseasons, 11 -- including each of the last five -- have been closed out on the road. By comparison, during the same stretch, other teams have closed out only 25 of the 56 series on the road.

The 2017 Warriors (plus-9.4) and 2015 Warriors (plus-8.7) have been the two best road playoff teams in regard to point differential per 100 possessions in the last 18 years (since the 2001 Lakers went 8-0 on the road).

Through the first three rounds of this postseason, the Warriors have the same record on the road (6-2) as they do at home (6-2). Statistically speaking, they've been better on the road (plus-7.4 points per 100 possessions) than at home (plus-5.1). Four of their six biggest wins (those by eight points or more) have come on the road.

Their offense has been driving this road success. They've been better defensively than other teams on the road, but the gap on offense has been significantly greater. They have a differential even larger than it's been for home games, where teams typically have an advantage.

Efficiency at home, last 5 postseasons
Team(s)WLPCTOffRtgDefRtgNetRtg
Golden State4580.849112.8101.1+11.7
All other teams2091420.595109.3105.6+3.7
Diff.  0.2543.5-4.47.9
Efficiency on the road, last 5 postseasons
Team(s)WLPCTOffRtgDefRtgNetRtg
Golden State30160.652111.6107.2+4.4
All other teams1202380.335104.1110.1-6.0
Diff.  0.3177.5-2.910.4
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Over these five years of playoff runs, the six Warriors who have attempted at least 200 postseason shots on the road -- Curry, Thompson, Green, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston -- have a combined effective field goal percentage of 54.1% on those shots; the league-average postseason eFG% over those five years is 50.6% (51.5% at home and 49.7% on the road).

In Durant's three seasons with the Warriors, he's been ridiculous on the road, registering an effective field goal percentage of 60% over his 22 playoff games away from Oracle Arena, much better than he's shot in Oakland over those three years. Thompson, Green and Iguodala, meanwhile, have shot almost as well on the road as they have at home.

Warriors w/ at least 100 playoff FGA at home & on the road, last 5 seasons
PlayerHome FGAHome eFG%Road FGARoad eFG%Diff.
Stephen Curry86759.3%82954.3%4.9%
Klay Thompson90253.4%73953.3%0.1%
Draymond Green56050.5%47850.3%0.2%
Kevin Durant47755.1%46460.0%-4.9%
Andre Iguodala31856.1%31855.5%0.6%
Shaun Livingston26453.8%20348.8%5.0%
Harrison Barnes22648.0%18745.7%2.3%
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

The Warriors have also done a better job of taking care of the ball on the road. In their 46 road playoff games over the last five years, they've committed just 13.4 turnovers per 100 possessions vs. 14.6 per 100 in 53 home playoff games. Their free throw rate (FTA/FGA) has also been higher on the road (0.271) than at home (0.263).

It's thusly fair to expect the Warriors win a game in Toronto over the next couple of weeks. While the Raptors are the only team that the Warriors haven't beat this season, Golden State's 121.2 points per 100 possessions in Toronto over the course of the five-season run represents their best offensive-efficiency mark in any road arena.

 
Should the Warriors consider starting DeMarcus Cousins in Game 1?

On the other end of the floor, though, the Raptors have scored 114.1 points per 100 possessions to tag the Warriors with their worst defensive-efficiency mark during the stretch. These two teams have simply played some highly efficient games north of the boarder.

The Raptors will be the best team the Warriors have faced in these playoffs. They're one of two teams that ranked in the regular-season top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. And they've been even better defensively in the playoffs, holding all three of their opponents at least seven points per 100 possessions below their regular-season average.

As noted in the numbers preview for this series, the Warriors' point differential of plus-6.2 points per 100 possessions is their worst mark through three rounds over these last five postseasons. They haven't been as dominant, especially defensively, as they were in the three seasons that culminated in a championship.

But starting The Finals on the road? That shouldn't be an issue.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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