The Western Conference playoffs have produced some of the most competitive games in the past, but this year’s playoffs have been a different story. Through the first six Western Conference playoff games this year, the closest margin of victory was a seven-point Golden State win in game one against New Orleans. The blowouts that have occurred in the Western Conference playoffs are baffling, since there are eight teams who all escaped the resilient Western Conference with a winning record. The only possible explanation for this anomaly is the power of the home-court advantage.
This regular season, the home team’s win percentage is an all-time low of 53.7 percent. In last season’s playoffs the home team won 56.2 percent of the games, which was nearly 10 percent lower than the historical playoff average of 65 percent. The average home team advantage was four points in the 2013 playoffs, but during the 2014 playoffs the average home team advantage dropped to 2.8 points. While these statistics suggest otherwise, the home court advantage is still as valuable as ever.
Up to this point in the Western Conference playoffs, the home team has won all six matchups. The home team has been dominant in each of these matchups, averaging a margin of victory of just over 11 points. This being said, it is hard to imagine a team losing at home, even if the odds of them winning have declined over the years.
It is difficult to pinpoint why playing at home positively impacts teams, but one key reason is the local fan base. Home teams are able to feed off of their ecstatic fans and gain energy late into games, which eventually propels the team into victory. This has already been seen in the Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors, which has had 123 consecutive sellouts. The 19,596 fans at each game have undoubtedly contributed to the success of the Warriors. The wild Warriors’ fans have already affected Monty Williams’ Pelicans, as the fifth year head coach described the unbelievable atmosphere at each game.
Considering that Golden State has such an incredible following and boasts a 41-2 record at home, it is hard to believe that their home success won’t continue. Sure there are different play styles and skill sets that will give each team an edge, but in the grand scheme of things, they will fall short to the advantage gained from home court. The home advantage is still a key factor in NBA playoff success, and will play a huge role in the Warriors’ path to the NBA Finals. Home court advantage is how the West will be won.
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Collegian Sports Reporter Alec Grimes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @GrimesAlec.