Home numbers encouraging for Timberwolves
JAN 04, 2013 12:26p ET
By the end of last season, though, the team's home and away records were even, 13-20 and 13-20, the hallmark of a losing team. In order to win, you have to win at home; that was the bitter root of the joke last year, with the lingering hope that the home record would eventually pull away from the road mark. This year, though, 19 games in, the Timberwolves have finally found their home-court advantage, and they'd be wise to hang onto it.
Currently, the team sits at 9-4 at the Target Center and 6-10 away from it. Its point differential at home is plus-4.5. Away, it sits at minus-2.9, which is hardly ideal. But a good sign is the Timberwolves are winning by a bigger margin at home than they are losing on the road, implying closer games away from the Target Center and better chances for the team to eke out a win.
Yes, it's early, but the Timberwolves establishing a presence at home is an important step for the team. Even bad teams win at home; only five teams in the league have losing records at home, and they are Cleveland, Orlando, Charlotte, Washington and New Orleans, hardly the cream of the crop. In addition, only two teams have better road winning percentages than home winning percentages: Chicago and New Orleans. That is especially odd in the case of Chicago, which is four games over .500 on the season. Moreover, no team with a losing home record has made the playoffs since 1992-93, 20 years ago, when the 39-43 Lakers qualified with a 20-21 record at the Forum.
Through Thursday, the Timberwolves' home winning percentage of .692 is the ninth-best in the NBA. The Heat (.882), Spurs (.867), Thunder (.842), Clippers (.833), Nuggets (.833), Knicks (.813) and Grizzlies (.813) all have above-.800 home winning percentages, and coincidentally, they're likely the best bets as title contenders.
The Timberwolves' .317 discrepancy between home and away winning percentages (calculated as home winning percentage minus away winning percentage) is currently the 10th highest in the league, and the teams with bigger discrepancies than Minnesota range in talent level from the Nuggets, who've had arguably the most difficult, road-heavy schedule of any team (the Timberwolves delivered them just their second home loss Thursday), to the Raptors, who are three games over .500 at home and a whopping 11 games under on the road.
It's hard to see a pattern this early in the discrepancies between home and away records, but the NBA's best teams are clustered, for the most part, between the Heat's .344 discrepancy and the Clippers' .166, though it would appear that a mark nearer to the Clippers', Thunder's (1.75) and Spurs' (.217) might be closer to ideal. Too large a discrepancy shows a team can't win on the road, and too small of one shows they're not dominant enough at home.
If nothing else, the Timberwolves have set a good precedent early: Win in general, and win at home. This is a long way from the 2008-09 team, which won a combined 24 games, with more wins (13) coming on the road than at home (11). So far this year, only New Orleans has been able to replicate that feat, with three wins at home to four on the road, and even if the 2012-13 Timberwolves' numbers at home aren't yet staggering, at least they're no longer staggering in the wrong direction.
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