The Grizzlies embark on their final west coast road trip today playing at the Blazers Wednesday, Lakers Friday and the Kings on Sunday.
Compared to their last West Coast trip (4 games in 5 days) this one is rather pedestrian with only 3 games over 5 days and two of the teams fighting for ping-pong balls not playoff position. All four teams were fighting for playoff position on the last trip.
The Grizzlies have won 50 games this season, tied for the most wins in a season in franchise history and have already set the franchise record for road wins in a season. With one more road win they will surpass the .500 mark on the road.
In the 2010-11 season 8 teams reached the .500 mark on the road. Four teams have already reached the .500 plateau (21 road wins) this season. As many as 7 more teams could reach that mark although some would need to win a lot of road games down the stretch to reach it. Realistically however only 3-4 more teams will likely end the season with at least 21 wins on the road. Memphis (20-16), Brooklyn (20-17), Chicago and New York (19-16 each). Milwaukee, Atlanta and Indiana could reach it but would need to win or at in Indiana’s case lose only one more game.
In the strike shortened 2011-12 season only 7 teams reached the .500 mark on the road. 8 teams made it to .500 on the road in the last full season of 2010-11. 11 teams reached that mark in the 2009-10 season.
So is it getting harder to win on the road now and if so why now? Could it be parity?
Miami has looked like the dominant team of late in the NBA and, with 58 wins after beating San Antonio Sunday evening, they appear to be a lock to win at least 60 games this season. San Antonio has the 2nd best record in the league and with 55 wins through 73 games would need only to finish 5-4 to reach the 60 win plateau as well. Oklahoma City is 3rd in the league with 54 wins but have also played more games and would need to finish 6-2 to reach 60 wins. Not a guarantee but definitely doable for last season’s Western Conference Champions.
How often do three teams win at least 60 games in a season? It hasn’t happened since the 2008-09 season. LeBron James was still in Cleveland that season and the Cavs along with the Lakers and Celtics all won 62 or more games. Parity doesn’t seem to be the answer does it. That could be misleading. Three teams scraping into 60 wins isn’t the same as three teams winning at least 62 games which is what happened in the 2008-09 season. It is unlikely that more than one team will surpass 62 wins this season (Miami).
It does appear to suggest that home court advantage is a bigger advantage this season than in the past few years even without super teams skewing the numbers. In the last 5 seasons only one team has lost fewer than 5 games at home in a season. This season 4 teams are poised to reach or surpass that mark. Denver and Miami has only lost 3 home games all season. San Antonio and Oklahoma City have lost 5 and could finish the season without losing any more.
So maybe there is more parity this season than in past years. Maybe as teams become more closely aligned in talent the advantage of a home crowd begins to make a larger impact in the outcome of games.
It’s something to consider as the Grizzlies season winds down over the next two weeks and home court advantage in the playoffs becomes the focus of many fans.