Factors That Make Home Court Special
By John Ventola
A couple of things have become quite evident as the seemingly endless NBA playoffs work their way to June. First, home court almost guarantees victory. Secondly, referees seem to be swallowing their whistles as players display more physicality than usual, and plays that are called disproportionately favor the home teams.
With the two Conference finals each at five games, only Oklahoma City has won a
game on the opponent’s home court, upsetting Golden State by six points in the first game of their series in Oakland. Otherwise, Cleveland has won their three home games, Toronto has won its two, and the Thunder demolished the Warriors twice in Oklahoma City. Golden State has taken two of its three home tilts.
Why does the home court make such a difference in performance? How can a team that won an NBA record 73 regular season games look so inadequate in two straight road games yet pull it together Thursday night to beat the same opponent at home? A Golden State shooting slump contributed, but there were other factors at work.
Surely being at home, and sleeping in one’s own bed plays a part. Being in a regular “routine”, and in the midst of familiar surroundings, helps also. Throw in raucous home support, and the mindset of being secure and confident on one’s own home court, and you have what usually results in the difference maker.
The referees? This blogger stops short in suggesting it is intentional, but the whistle-blowing, or lack thereof, always seems to favor the home team. Free throw discrepancies clearly point this out. Home standing Golden State was 31 of 34 at the free throw line while visiting OKC was 20 of 24 Thursday night. The free throw
differential decided the game. The Thunder were 33 of 37 and 31 of 40 in their two home victories, outscoring the Warriors (19 of 25 and 19 of29) 66 to 38 at the charity stripe in the contests.
Subtle game tendencies of refs calling a push off on a visiting player while allowing it for a home player, or calling every shot challenged by a visiting player a foul does not indicate they are incompetent, or doing it on purpose. It shows they are human, definitely reacting unconsciously to stimuli of crowd noise and surroundings.
Oklahoma City’s win over the Warriors on the road and its two convincing home wins put the defending champions into a 3-1 series disadvantage. Only nine teams have come back from being down by that margin in NBA playoff history.
Last night, Golden State used home court advantage to beat Oklahoma City 120-11 to
avoid elimination. Question remains, can the defending world champs go to the Sooner state and capture game six in order to force game seven Monday night back in California?
Sure they can. The Warriors defeated OKC three times during the regular season, capturing the lone road contest 121-18 in an epic overtime battle on February 27th.That night Steph Curry hit twelve three-pointers, scored 46 points, and hit a 32-footer to win the game with .6 seconds remaining.
They will need a similar effort Saturday, and all of the Warriors’ contributors will have to be clicking in all aspects of their offensive game. The shots have been there for the Warriors. Analytically, their looks have been far better than the shots taken by Oklahoma City in the series. After winning 73 of 82 regular season games and winning all three of their contests with OKC during the regular season, how can they lose three of four games to the Thunder? Simple, open shots have been available, but Golden State has hit a shooting slump.
Draymond Green will have return to his regular season form, and Curry cannot start the game shooting one for ten from the field like he did in game four (amazingly Russell Westbrook started his game five performance by making only one of his first ten field goal attempts). Curry and his usual hot-shooting buddy Klay Thompson were a combined 30 of 73 from the field in the two losses. Even though they responded with 58 points last night (31 for Curry and 27 for Thompson), the duo only made 17 of 41 FG attempts, including a dismal—for them—five of 17 from three-point range. Curry (10-10) and Thompson (9-10) were 19 of 20 at the free throw line.
Kevin Durant and Westbrook are two exceptional basketball talents. As good as they are as a duo, the Thunder tend to struggle from time to time because the two players
monopolize the basketball. Durant scored 40 points (hitting all thirteen of his free throws) in the game five loss while Westbrook recovered from a terrible first quarter to tally 31 points. While their teammates were shooting a hot fifty per cent (16 of 32), Durant and Westbrook took 59 shots and made only 23. They made six of 19 three-point shots.
Now both the West and East have Conference finals sitting at three games to two. Cleveland trounced Toronto Wednesday 116-78 after losing twice in Canada.
The Raptors will attempt to repeat their game three and four dominance of the Cavs to stay alive in the East Friday night while Curry and his mates will try to overcome their game one stumble in the West and give themselves a chance to go home again for a deciding game seven.
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