Open Thread: Understanding why the Spurs are so much better on the road than at home

No one needs a reminder that this is a bizarre NBA season. Nothing is normal: not the schedule, players’ lives and typical daily routines off the court, and certainly not the gameday atmosphere. So far only seven teams have had fans in attendance, ranging anywhere from 51 per game for the Memphis Grizzlies to over 3,000 for the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic.

Perhaps one of the biggest statistical oddities the mostly fan-less NBA season is triggering is a near even split between the home and road records across the league. In fact, 14 teams have a .500 or better record on the road, and a whopping 13 teams have equal or better road records compared to home (as of Tuesday afternoon).

The Spurs are one of those crazy teams with a 2-4 record at home but 6-2 record away from the AT&T Center. Considering they have had a losing record on the road but contender-level winning records at home over the last three seasons, it’s hard to point to any particular reasons why they are experiencing this sudden change, but we can try:

  • Although travel will always be more exhausting than not, the strict COVID rules for the road — no leaving the hotel, no guests in rooms, etc. — means players have little else to do but focus on the upcoming game, and that’s even easier to do with very few instances of more than one night between games.
  • While the rules are still strict at home, players are in their own homes, where their focus may not be as great. The NBA’s request that players avoid contact with friends, house staff, and even family in their own household also means they can get bored at times and cause that lack of focus compared to on the road, where they can still be around teammates, coaches and staff at the hotel (and, you know, talk basketball).
  • Next there’s the actual on-court basketball reasons. Being a team that’s used to winning at home, maybe not having the home crowd there to pump them up is having a negative impact on the Spurs’ energy level there because they’re used to more. (Especially if they’re like me and don’t really believe in the artificial fan noise.)
  • On the other hand, the same effects can have an opposite result on the road. Used to being negatively impacted by opposing fans (possibly a reason for their poor road record in recent years), not having them there cheering for the opponent or booing and therefore affecting the officials to a certain extent (no matter how much they would deny it) possibly perks the road team up some as environmental expectations expectations are exceeded instead of lowered. (Especially if they’re like me and don’t really believe in the artificial fan noise.)
  • Maybe it’s just he newfound mental toughness of this team that is leading to better road results, although if it is they need to find a way to harness it at home, too.

It’s impossible to know if the reason behind the Spurs home woes and road joys are any or all of the above, but it’s something to keep an eye on. One would assume they’ll eventually find their way at home, but if they can keep up the good record on the road even after fans return, they will be a serious threat for the playoffs.

What do you think, Pounders? Do have any idea why the Spurs’ home and road records (and the NBA’s as a whole) is so out of the ordinary? Feel free to discuss that or any other topic in today’s Open Thread!

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