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Nothin' Like Home Cookin'

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Mike Kurylo - the famed Knickerblogger - has invited me to join the troupe of hoops writers at Courtside Times. Here's my first article over there, pasted below for your viewing ease. Enjoy. (And please take the self-effacing Cowtown jokes with a heaping tablespoon of sarcasm, as they were intended.)

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The Sacramento Kings have retired the #6 jersey in a nod to their boisterous fans. Hornets owner George Shinn told Oklahoma City (sort of) on opening night that he wanted them to be the "loudest team" in the league. The Staples Center is known much more as the home of the Lakers than the Clippers.

Home court advantage is a term often talked about by analysts and is certainly a reason teams bound for the playoffs don't let up in March or April. Studies have shown that the home team wins about 61 percent of the time in the NBA. Some have tried to dig in and find out why exactly home teams fare better - is it the arena backdrop? Players getting to sleep in their own beds? The bounces in the floor?

A full explanation of why there is a home court advantage is still in the works (and probably will be for some time). What we can lay out about home court advantage, though, is what teams enjoy the greatest benefit of home cooking.

I looked at the past five years of home-road splits for 27 of the 30 NBA teams. (I threw out the Hornets franchise because of their move, the Charlotte franchise because of their late arrival and the Grizzlies franchise because it moved from empty Vancouver to raucous Memphis in 2001. Also, no playoffs included.)

The idea is that teams with a better home court advantage will have a greater difference between its home record and its road record. For instance, if Team A goes 30-11 at home and 11-30 on the road, it has a home-road winning differential of .463 - its home winning percentage is .463 higher than its road winning percentage. That's a phenomenal home court advantage.

If Team B goes 21-20 at home and 20-21 on the road, its home-road winning differential is .002 - they hardly even have a home court advantage.

Both teams have equal records - they both go 41-41. But Team A obviously has a better HCA than Team B.

Alright, to the good stuff. Let's start from the bottom. Here are the five teams with the smallest HCA, based on the last five years:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Dallas
  3. Boston
  4. Seattle
  5. Toronto
Philly gets the nod as having the smallest HCA in the league. Its HCA was negligable in the 00-01, 01-02 and 02-03 seasons, and still small the last two seasons. Dallas, which is known as a good road team, had equal home and road winning percentages last year. So did Seattle. Toronto's road winning percentage was pretty solid early this century, negating their home country advantage.

T - 21. Houston
T - 21. Detroit

Detroit's HCA has been consistently small over the five years, likely owing to a great road winning percentage. Houston's has flucuated (the Rockets had one of the biggest HCAs in the league in 02-03), but was nonexistant last season.

20. Portland
T - 18. Orlando
T - 18. Miami
17. Washington
T - 15. Phoenix
T - 15. Minnesota
14. Golden State

Miami had the biggest HCA in the league in 03-04, yet the smallest in 01-02 (winning 18 games at home and 18 on the road). Likewise, Phoenix had a high HCA in 02-03 and a nonexistant one last season.

13. San Antonio

I thought I'd break the Spurs out just to show that because a team wins almost nonstop at home doesn't mean it has the best HCA. The Spurs win everywhere, including in San Antonio. Note that they did tie for the best HCA last season, losing only three games at the SBC Center.

T - 11. Indiana
T - 11. Chicago
T - 9. New York
T - 9. Utah

The Bulls had the biggest single-season HCA in the past five years in 02-03, with home-road winning differential of .585. Winning three games on the road probably had something to do with it.

8. L.A. Lakers
T - 6. L.A. Clippers

If you thought the Clippers would have a better HCA than the Lakers, raise your hand. It's (barely) true: over the past five years, the Clippers got more out of playing at Staples than the Lakers did. Of course, the Lakers did win three titles... moving on.

T - 6. Atlanta

Again, moving on...

T - 3. Milwaukee
T - 3. New Jersey
T - 3. Sacramento

Ah, there are the loudest rednecks in the league, right along with the ever-empty Continental and a host of discouraged Packers fans who can't cop tickets to Lambeau. Milwaukee and Sacramento have been consistent over the five years in terms of home-road winning differential, while NJ's HCA has gone from large to small to large over the seasons.

2. Cleveland

The LeBrons had a huge HCA last season, and a consistently average one in the four previous years. Keep the Q rockin', C-Town, and you just might catch...

1. Denver

Scratch that. No one is catching Denver in prolonged home court advantage. Blame the rarified air and altitude (you can blame the hour-long bus ride from the airport to downtown, too), but Denver has a consistently great HCA. They've been in the top five in home-road winning differential in four of the past five years, including the top spot in 00-01. The one season they placed low on HCA scale (02-03) was the season they only won a total of 17 games.

So the next time cowbell-beating lunatics at ARCO, A-listers at Staples or club-hoppers in South Beach tell you their team has the best home court advantage in the league, tell them, "It ain't so - those wild animals in Colorado have you beat."