What’s Up With The Golden State Warriors’ Home-Road Splits?

The Golden State Warriors have played 19 games since the start of February, and a 10-9 record in those games captures the rollercoaster ride of their season and depicts a nearly perfect pattern.

No, the Warriors don’t just win when Steph Curry plays and lose when he’s injured. Nor do they simply beat bad teams and lose to good ones. Instead, they’re winning virtually all of their home games (10-1 since the start of February, including recent wins over the admittedly underdog Bucks and Suns) and losing all of their home games (0-8).

This pattern perpetuates an age-long puzzle. Entering Wednesday’s game at the Clippers, the Warriors are 29-7 at home versus 7-26 at home, giving them the third-longest split of any team since the 1960s. The 1989 Nuggets, playing in the high altitude of Denver , is the only team with a longer home differential in an 82-game season.

The longest home streaks in NBA history

Club Initial registration Road record % Difference
Club Initial registration Road record % Difference
1952 Indianapolis Olympians 25-6 4-24 66.4%
1955 Boston Celtics 21-5 4-22 65.4%
1957 Fort Wayne Pistons 23-5 5-23 64.3%
2020 Philadelphia 76ers* 29-2 10-24 64.1%
1951 Fort Wayne Pistons 27-7 5-27 63.8%
1989 Denver Nuggets 35-6 9-32 63.4%
1957 Philadelphia Warriors 20-5 5-25 63.3%
1966 Baltimore Bullets 29-9 4-25 62.5%
1953 Syracuse Nationals 32-2 10-20 60.8%
1951 Philadelphia Warriors 29-3 10-22 59.4%
2023 Golden State Warriors 29-7 7-26 59.3%

*The 2020 76ers crowd includes only “true” home and away games played before the bubble.

To some degree, every team should expect to be better at home. But the 2022-23 Warriors take it to the extreme, and given that home-field advantage has seen a long-term decline over the decades, they look even more aberrant.

So why is Golden State so inconsistent by location? The problem is not the offense. The Warriors are scoring 3.8 more points per 100 possessions at home versus on the road, per Cleaning the Glass—very close to the league average of plus-3.2 at home. The Warriors rank 12th in offensive rating at home and 15th on the road.

The flip side of this statistic is that the average team allows 3.2 more points per 100 possessions on the road than at home. But the Warriors’ defense is falling far more severely – down 12.5 points per 100 possessions, from 108.1 at home to a horrendous 120.6 on the road.

For context, the only teams with better home defenses than the Warriors are the Grizzlies and Cavaliers. The only teams with worse road defense than the Warriors are the Spurs and Rockets.

On the road, the Warriors allow a few more offensive rebounds and free throws than they do at home – but the big difference comes from the three-pointers they give up. Warriors opponents shoot 8 percentage points worse from distance at the Chase Center than in other arenas. That’s twice the next-largest margin in the league this season and the largest by any team since the 2009 Clippers, who played before the 3-point revolution increased the importance of that shot.

3-point percentage allowed

Club Home Road Difference
Club Home Road Difference
Warriors 32.4% 40.7% -8.3%
Grizzlies 32.9% 37.3% -4.3%
Spurs 37.4% 41.3% -3.9%
Hornets 33.6% 37.5% -3.9%
Nuggets 33.1% 36.7% -3.5%

Go ahead and check out those Warriors streak percentages in this chart. they are amazing. In San Francisco, Warriors opponents shoot 3s like Kelly Oubre Jr. everywhere else, they shoot just like Kevin Huerter.

However, the most confusing piece of this puzzle is Why the Warriors are burning from deep on the road. It’s a real mystery why they allow essentially the same quality shot no matter where they play. Based on factors such as shot location and defender distance, Second Spectrum’s shot quality model estimates that Warriors opponents should shoot just 0.3 percentage points lower on 3s at Chase Center than elsewhere, a much smaller margin than the real difference. (Second Spectrum actually has two shooting quality models, one that accounts for shooter identity and one that doesn’t. Both show the exact same pattern for the Warriors.)

Zoom in on the attributes of all the 3s Golden State allows, and it’s hard to pinpoint a reason why opponents make so many more when the Warriors visit. They attempt 3 from basically the same spots on the field, with basically the same amount of time to shoot, with basically the same degree of openness.

Warriors Opponents 3-Point Attempt Features

Statistical Home Road
Statistical Home Road
Angle 3 Freq. 23.9% 25.2%
Catch-and-Shot Frequency. 71.8% 71.0%
Average Shot Distance 25.4 feet 25.4 feet
Average Defender Distance 6.4 feet 6.6 feet
Competition rate 89.7% 88.4%

Instead of a shot qualitythen, inconsistency seems to result shooting. In San Francisco, Warriors opponents have scored 3 percentage points worse than remotely expected, according to Second Spectrum. In other cities, the Warriors’ opponents have scored 4.9 percentage points better than expected.

This works out to a road-home split of about 8 percentage points. For context, over the past five seasons before this one, according to an analysis of Second Spectrum data, the largest gap for any team was just 4.3 percentage points, since the 2019 Pacers. The Warriors, again, have that rate almost double!

Here’s a handy chart to summarize the weirdness:

Warriors Opponents 3-point shooting

Statistical Home Road
Statistical Home Road
Expected 3P% 35.4% 35.7%
Real 3P% 32.4% 40.7%
Difference -3.0% +4.9%

For just one case study, look at Malik Beasley, who has made the most 3s against the Warriors of any player this season. Beasley actually enjoyed easier looks when he played in the Chase, per Second Spectrum — but he shot just 3-for-22 there, compared to 12-for-24 when the Warriors were visitors.

These discrepancies add up quickly. Spreading a difference of 8 percentage points over 35 3-point attempts per game yields an additional eight points. In other words, of the 12-point difference between the Warriors’ home defense and road defense, two-thirds of that is attributed to the opponent’s 3-point shooting.

Granted, there may be other factors that these download quality numbers and models don’t capture. Some of the Warriors’ most important players have missed more games on the road, likely due to the team’s load management system.

Game lost ratio for Key Warriors

Player Home Road
Player Home Road
Jordan Poole 0% 0%
Kevin Looney 0% 0%
Draymond Green 6% 18%
Donde DiVincenzo 6% 24%
Clay Thompson 11% 24%
Stephen Curry 42% 33%
Andrew Wiggins 47% 45%

Draymond Green’s more frequent absences could certainly explain some of the defensive struggles on the road — but still, the Warriors are just 6-21 in road games where he plays, so that factor alone isn’t a satisfying answer.

Perhaps, as Green and Steve Kerr suggested, the Warriors don’t play with as much urgency or purpose on the road. But if an intangible factor like effort or hustle is the culprit behind the Warriors’ defensive shooting, then why does it only appear on three-pointers? At 2 points against the Warriors, the difference between home and road shotmaking is just 0.3 percentage points, per Second Spectrum data analysis.

The problem is limited in scope to 3 opponents, but it is still extremely important because the modern NBA is a win-or-lose league. I’ve scoured the data and the film, and I still haven’t been able to discern any compelling reason why the Warriors’ defense is so much worse on the road, other than a sense that they’re suffering from historically weird luck.

Will that mystery matter next, though, as the Warriors try to repeat as champions? It shouldn’t, at least according to the past. This century, the correlation between a team’s home winning percentage in the regular season and the playoffs is just 0.09, on a scale of zero to one. Looking only at playoff teams that played multiple series, that percentage is still just 0.13. (These calculations ignore the 2020 playoff bubble.) That means there’s almost no carryover between the regular season and the playoffs.

But the Warriors split has so little precedent that, who knows, it might just continue to linger throughout the spring. It has already defied the odds to last this long. In early January, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton wrote about how Golden State’s split likely wasn’t sustainable — a logical conclusion, given all historical indicators. For previous teams with large home differentials early in the season, Pelton found that “Over the rest of the schedule, … their performance evens out significantly.”

However, the big split remained for these Warriors, and their performance did not come close to the night out. They will have to sometime in the playoffs if the currently fifth-place Warriors want to make another championship run. But for now, the mystery remains and deepens with each home win and corresponding road loss.

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