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OAKLAND – In hopes to eradicate regular-season complacency and improve their chances to win another NBA championship, the Warriors made having the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a priority.
So far in the NBA playoffs, though, the Warriors have a home-court disadvantage. The Warriors will play the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 on Friday in L.A. after squandering two home contests in Game 2 and 5. Yet, the Warriors have a 3-2 series lead after collecting two consecutive road wins.
“It’s a strange one,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We have more of a sense of urgency on the road. We seem to be better prepared.”
First, the Warriors squandered a 31-point lead in Game 2. Then, the Warriors admittedly lacked intensity in Game 5 despite having the chance to close out their first-round series and rest before facing the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.
It might be puzzling for the Warriors to show such apathy in the playoffs. It might also seem surprising the Warriors would not feel compelled to be gracious hosts, especially during their final season at Oracle Arena.
Yet, it matches how the Warriors fared in the regular season. They went a respectable 30-11 at home, but that does not match what the Milwaukee Bucks (33-8) or Houston Rockets (34-7) performance at home. Yet the Warriors tied the Milwaukee Bucks for the best road record (27-14). Dating back to last season, the Warriors have won five consecutive road playoff games. That included winning a decisive Game 7 against Houston in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors also set an NBA record by winning at least one road game in each of their last 20 playoff series.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing we’re sharp on the road,” Draymond Green said. “But we have to figure it out at home.”
After all, isn’t there a reason the Warriors wanted home-court advantage? Those in NBA circles consider Oracle Arena to be one of the league’s loudest venues. The Warriors also will no longer play basketball there after this season in favor of Chase Center in San Francisco.
Yet, the Warriors have collected more marquee wins on the road than at home this season. They won in hostile road environments this season in Utah, Denver, Milwaukee, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston and Oklahoma City. They lost at home, however, to Milwaukee, Portland, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Houston. The Warriors also slept walked at home against Western Conference bottom dwellers in Dallas and Phoenix.
“We still won a lot of games at home. But we’ll take a win anywhere,” Klay Thompson said. “That’s fine. We just have to win all our road games. Whatever.”
The Warriors seem to have that attitude for home playoff games.
Kevin Durant (35.5 points) and Thompson (22 points) fared better on the road than Durant (29.7) and Thompson (17) have on the road. The Warriors have averaged more turnovers at home (17) than on the road (12.5) The Warriors have also logged more rebounds on the road (49.5) than at home (43.7).
Kerr often considers the Warriors’ number of turnovers to reflect their focus. He often considered the Warriors’ number of rebounds to reflect their effort. So if nothing else, perhaps the Warriors should not worry about closing out their first-round series against the Clippers on the road. They might worry about whether they can rely on their home-court in presumably future and tougher playoff opponents.
“In L.A,, we played really hard. The last two home games, we let our guard down,” Kerr said. “We should know from watching the Clippers all year that this is a competitive fun team that enjoys playing. They’re not going to go away. You have to put them away by competing.”