The Golden State Warriors have had a weird season. Primarily, it’s weird that the defending NBA champions are just 38-36 after their win in Dallas on Wednesday. The Warriors haven’t been whole, with their preferred starting lineup — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney — having played in just 27 games together (and not since Feb. 4). But they’re also just 14-13 in those 27 games and just 24-24 in 48 total games with Curry in uniform.
The record with Curry breaks down to 17-4 at home and 7-20 on the road, which is the other weird thing about this season. The defending-champion Warriors have a worse road record (9-29) than the Charlotte Hornets (11-26).
Their overall home-road differential (29-7 at home, 9-29 on the road) is the fourth biggest in the 47 seasons since the ABA-NBA merger.
Biggest difference, home vs. road winning percentage, since 1976-77
* Doesn’t include games played in the bubble.
Two of the other four teams above — the 2019-20 Sixers and the 1988-89 Nuggets — reached the playoffs, both as the No. 6 seed in their conference. The 2020 playoffs were played at a neutral site, where the Sixers were swept by the Boston Celtics. The ’88-89 Nuggets were also swept (in a best-of-five series) by the third-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round. So they were 9-32 on the road in the regular season and 0-2 on the road in the playoffs.
Will the Warriors suffer a similar fate? Here’s a deeper look at the history Golden State will need to overcome.
1. Playoff history
The Warriors have won their last two road games, but the best road record they can possibly finish with is 12-29 (.293). In the 45 previous seasons since the merger (and removing 2019-20), there have been 36 teams that have reached the playoffs while winning fewer than 30% of their road games in the regular season. Here’s the history of those 36 teams …
• Only three of those 36 instances have been in the last 30 years. One of those was in the 1998-99, lockout-shortened season and the other two — the 2007-08 Hawks (12-29 on the road) and the 2006-07 Warriors (12-29) — are the only teams to make the playoffs in a 30-team league having won less than 30% of their road games.
• Only two of 36 — the 1979-80 Rockets and the 1983-84 Mavs — had home-court advantage in the first round. Both were the No. 4 seed.
• Only six — including both of the teams above — won a series. One of the six, the 1983-84 Phoenix Suns, won two series, losing in the Western Conference finals.
• Only 11 of the 37 won a road game in the playoffs. Only two won more than one road playoff game.
Removing 2019-20 (when the playoffs were played in a bubble), there’s a pretty strong correlation between road record in the regular season and road record in the playoffs. In fact, it’s a tick stronger than the home-record correlation. There have been 90 teams that have had a winning road record in the playoffs post-merger (and not including 2020), with a minimum of three road games played. And 72 (80%) of those 90 had a winning road record in the regular season.
There was one team that had a winning road record in the playoffs after winning less than 30% of its road games in the regular season. That was the 1978-79 Atlanta Hawks, who were the No. 5 seed in the East at 46-36 (34-7 at home, 12-29 on the road). They beat the Rockets, 2-0, in the first round, winning Game 1 on the road. Then they lost to the Washington Bullets in seven games, going 2-2 on the road and 1-2 at home.
2. Inspiration from 39 years ago
So the ’83-84 Suns are the only team to win more than one playoff series after winning fewer than 30% of their road games in the regular season. The Suns were not a defending champion, but they were a better team (53-29, including 21-20 on the road) the previous season, losing their first first-round series (2-1) as a No. 2 seed in the 1983 playoffs.
The first round became a best-of-five in 1984, when the Suns were the No. 6 seed, with a 41-41 record (31-10 at home, 10-31 on the road). They beat the third-seeded Blazers in the first round, winning Games 1 and 5 in Portland (and losing Game 4 at home). Then they beat the second-seeded Jazz in the conference semis, winning Game 2 in Utah and winning all three of their home games.
The Suns won another road game (Game 5) in the conference finals, but lost to the top-seeded Lakers in six games, dropping Games 4 and 6 at home. So those Suns went 4-5 on the road in the playoffs, after winning just 10 road games in the regular season.
3. Does home-court advantage mean less?
Overall, home teams are 636-456 (.582) this season. That’s the highest mark of the last four seasons, but the eighth lowest in the 47 seasons since the merger. Home winning percentage is usually higher in the playoffs, but that’s partially because the better teams get more home games.
Also, home winning percentage over the last five postseasons that have been played outside the bubble (2017-19, 2021 and 2022) is just .604, the lowest for any five-year stretch since 1980-84 (.600).
The Warriors (38-36) are currently the No. 6 seed in the West. While they’re just a game in the loss column ahead of the 12th-place Pelicans (35-37), they’re also tied in the win column with the fourth-place Suns (38-34). So there’s a chance they could have home-court advantage in the first round.
Going back to 2013, the Warriors have won at least one road game in all 27 playoff series in which they’ve had Curry, Thompson and Green on the roster. They’ve won multiple road games in 12 of those 27 series and have swept their road games in seven of the 27. Over those nine years, they’re 40-29 (.580) in playoff road games.
But it’s possible that these Warriors aren’t those Warriors. A team that’s this bad on the road is a team that’s just not a very good team overall. History tells us that teams that have been this bad on the road haven’t had much playoff success. Again, the last team to win a playoff series after winning less than 30% of their road games was the 2006-07, eighth-seeded Warriors. That was 16 years ago, and you’d have to go back 38 years to find a second team (the 1984-85 Blazers) that won a playoff series after being so bad on the road.
Of course, this Western Conference seems wide open. The first-place Nuggets rank 16th in defensive efficiency, and in the 26 previous seasons for which we have play-by-play data, only five teams have reached the Finals after ranking that low defensively in the regular season. Thirty-seven of the 52 Finals teams over that stretch have ranked in the top 12 on both ends of the floor, and right now, there are no Western Conference teams that rank in the top 12 both offensively and defensively.
Every finals team in the last 26 years has ranked in the top eight on one end of the floor or the other. And right now, the defending champs rank 11th offensively and 18th defensively.
The Warriors have three more road games left on their schedule, and two of them are against top-three teams in the West (Denver and Sacramento). But they begin a four-game homestand with a visit from the Sixers on Friday (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
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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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