Winning on the Road, Again
The Washington Wizards are 4-0 on the road this postseason, including Monday's win in Indiana against the top-seeded Pacers.
By Jay Cipoletti
The First Round of the Playoffs were not brought to you by Willie Nelson, Bob Seger or Jack Kerouac, though it appeared that way from start to finish.
The litany of road winners began with Brooklyn, Atlanta and Golden State on Day 1 and concluded with Brooklyn again on the final day of the First Round. In total, 24 games were won by the visitors (an NBA record for any single round), with hosts winning 26 to maintain the slightest of home-court advantages.
As stunning as the number of road winners seems in light of the league's overall 42.0% road winning percentage, the 16 playoff teams in the First Round actually saw their aggregate road winning percentage drop from the regular season.
On the year, they went 348-308 on the road, a 53.0% success rate. Granted, the caliber of opponent in the Playoffs contributed to the decline, but the underlying point is that, in general, playoff teams are playoff teams because of their success on the road in the regular season. Fourteen of the 16 playoff teams won at a rate that exceeded the league's 42.0% mark, with only Atlanta (34.1%) and Brooklyn (39.0%) falling short. Even Brooklyn can be included in the road success category, going 12-13 (48.0%) since Jan. 1.
The formula for winning on the road is simple -- shoot better than your opponent. Phoenix finished a single game back of Dallas for the West's final playoff spot. Not surprisingly, the Suns were the only lottery team to outshoot their opponents on the road this season. Conversely, 11 of 16 playoff teams had a higher eFG% on the road than their hosts.
That simple rule of thumb held true throughout the First Round, with 20 of the 24 road winners posting a higher eFG%. In two of the four remaining games, the road victor was outshot by just 0.1 percent.
First Round Road Winners
The two aberrations in the First Round -- the Mavs' 113-92 thrashing of the Spurs and the Rockets' 121-116 thriller over the Blazers -- are consistent in proving the corollary to the "Shoot Better" rule of thumb: Get more possessions. A lot more possessions.
Road Margins -- Four road victors that were outshot by their opponent
In each of the four First Round playoff games in which the road winner was outshot, they won the turnover battle, twice decisively. In three of the four games, they held an advantage on the offensive glass.
Again, a very simple concept -- if you do not shoot better, you have to get more shots.
Simple is not synonymous with easy, however. Sustaining this simple winning formula into the Conference Semifinals and beyond figures to be much more difficult as the caliber of play improves. Although the first night of Conference Finals games -- with road wins for the Wizards and Clippers -- suggest the degree of difficulty has not changed.
Road Margins -- Monday's road winners on first night of Conference Semifinals