NBA: Why Is It So Difficult To Win On The Road?


Teams that win on the road are almost exclusively considered elite teams. Even the bad teams can win at home, but going into someone else’s gym and stealing a victory is something to be proud of. Why is it so difficult to win on the road?

As of this writing, nine teams have winning road records in 2012-13, with the San Antonio Spurs leading the way at seven games over .500 (13-6). Let’s take a look back at the past few years and how many teams were over .500 on the road.

Year / Teams Over .500 / Leader

2011-12 / 7 / Chicago Bulls (24-9)
2010-11 / 8 / Miami Heat (28-13)
2009-10 / 11 / Dallas Mavericks (27-14)
2008-09 / 7 / Los Angeles Lakers (29-12)
2007-08 / 9 / Boston Celtics (31-10)

What do all of these teams have in common? Superstars. We’re not talking about Danny Granger or Rudy Gay here, we’re talking about full-fledged superstars. Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce.

One could argue that the reason these teams win on the road is simply that they have more talent. That might hold water in some discussions, but then we have to take a look at teams with the biggest discrepancies.

Year / Team / Difference in Home and Road Wins

2012-13 / Sacramento Kings /+8
2011-12 / Utah Jazz / +14
2010-11 / Washington Wizards / +17
2009-10 / Charlotte Bobcats / +18
2008-09 / Utah Jazz / +18

As we look at the teams that had the biggest discrepancy between home and away wins, the exact opposite trend stands out. There isn’t a superstar on any team among this group.

The basket is the same shape, the rim the same circumference and the ball the same no matter where the game is played. There are no “home referees”, as they travel all over as well.

It’s not 1970’s NHL where the rink sizes are different and home teams learn exactly where the dead and live spot are on the boards. Things are uniform in the NBA.

Can it simply be old-fashioned home cooking? Could it really be that difficult and uncomfortable to live out of a suitcase? Is the nightlife too enticing to turn down and does it affect players on the road, whereas they might stay inside their own place at home?

It’s also not the NFL, where crowd noise affects the away team’s inability to communicate with each other.

There’s really no logical reason for why teams fare poorly as a whole on the road. We know how to win (have a superstar on the court) but we don’t know why those without one can’t. I guess some things just can’t be explained.

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