Better Home Court, Spurs or Warriors?

A common saying, there’s no place like home, is true of the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors over the last two years.  Both teams have been incredibly dominant on their home courts: the Warriors have gone a whopping 78-4 at home over the last two seasons, and the Spurs have lost only once at home since March 12th, 2015.

The Spurs and Warriors are not only winning at such a prolific rate at home, but they are also obliterating their opponents to boot.

The Warriors are smashing opponents with their deafening crowd and their elegant offensive attack.  The Spurs are doing it with beautiful ball movement and stifling defense.

So it begs the question: whose house is more impenetrable, the Warriors or the Spurs?

The Warriors have the superior offensive numbers at home in front of their raucous crowd.  But the Spurs bolster a swarming defense and have the ability to just run opponents off the floor.  And the mark of a truly terrific home court is the ability to obliterate opponents to the point they are begging for mercy.

On the surface, particularly when considering the dominance of the Warriors at home, it would appear they have the advantage.  In fact on their respective home floors, Golden State averaged over 11 more points per game than the Spurs (116.3 to 105.1), nearly four whole assists better (29.7 to 25.6), almost twice as many threes (13.0 to 7.3), and shot a higher field goal percentage (43.1 to 40.6).

However, only using these stats as a basis for determining home supremacy is misguided as it is critical to evaluate the other end of the floor, where the Spurs have the clear advantage.

The Spurs dominance on the defensive end at the AT&T Center is the key reason they possess the best home court in the NBA. The Spurs at home only allowed an average of 91.2 PPG compared to the Warriors 101.9 PPG. They are stifling. Their opponent’s field goal percentage of 35.2% is better than the 38.2% for the Warriors. They only yielded a stingy 6.7 threes per game versus 7.5 by the Warriors.  The Spurs’ +12.9 points per game differential at home was tops in the league, and sheds light on why the AT&T center is the toughest place to play: opponents often have no chance.

Of the Spurs’ 40 home victories this season, a whopping 12 of them were decided by 20 points or more.

In the Warriors 39 home victories, they only had seven such wins.

The Spurs domination of opponents, spearheaded by their defensive proficiency, landed them the highest net home rating in the league this year at 16.2, with the Warriors finishing second posting a home net rating of 15.8.

There is one undisputable advantage Oracle Arena has over AT&T Center: the noise level.

Oracle arena, dubbed Roaracle Arena, has achieved decibal levels of nearly 120 dB.  To put that into perspective, that is about as loud as a jet engine!  Furthermore, all of the noise generated in Oracle can have a physical effect on opponents.

Jeffrey Larsen, a professor at Utah State University, and co-author of a book on the study of noise in college basketball arenas, contends that “there is the possibility of some [hearing] damage…to the point where it could take a half hour to an hour to incur some damage.”  (CBS, San Francisco).

It’s hard enough to guard the Warriors when they are scampering around the arc, splashing in three after three, but guarding them with ringing in your ears? Good luck.  Moreover, after game one of the Warriors opening playoff series with the Pelicans in 2015, former Pelicans coach Monty Williams questioned if the noise level was even LEGAL in Oracle.

Williams claimed, “I’m not so sure that the decibel level is legal there, and I’m serious…they’ve done studies on that. Being on the competition committee, there’s got to be something to that because it does get a little out of hand.” (For The Win—USA Today).

All the noise from Oracle literally and figuratively gets in the head of opponents, a great boon for the Warriors.

Besides the noise, perhaps Oracle’s greatest advantage is the crowd’s ability to fuel Warriors runs.  When Steph Curry or Klay Thompson (now Kevin Durant) go berserk, the crowd stirs up into a frenzy.  All of their energy spurs on the Warriors sharp shooters to keep hoisting up shots.  And most of the time the shots go in, and the opponent is run off the floor.  It may be 5-5 on the court, but when a team is playing in Oracle, it’s as if they’re playing 6-5.

While AT&T center doesn’t generate as much noise as Oracle Arena, it has other distinct advantages that make it the toughest home court in the NBA.  But when the Spurs need their sixth man, they are always there.

After game one of this year’s Western Conference semifinals, Steven Adams, the Thunder’s center, exclaimed “it’s so loud in there, we couldn’t hear a thing.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Spurs fans save their energy for the postseason, as it is emblematic of the Spurs’ culture: meander through the regular season, and turn it up in the playoffs.    Adams also hinted at another fascinating nuance of the AT&T Center opining that “It’s [AT&T Center] different I guess.  Might be the court color…something aesthetically negative about this place.” (mysanantonio.com)

Adams’ comments paint a picture of a mythical place and further enhance the mystique of  the San Antonio Spurs.

Both the Warriors and Spurs have tremendous home court advantages; they didn’t lose three home games between the two of them during the regular season.

When teams head to Oracle or the AT&T center, they know they’re in for a bludgeoning by the bay, or a thunderous Texas beat down. But there can only be one winner of this rodeo, and for now it is the San Antonio Spurs.

 

photo via llananba