Playoff-Bound NBA Teams That Won't Lose at Home in Postseason
The whole goal of the NBA's regular season is essentially to ensure yourself as many home games as possible in the postseason. While division titles and marquee wins are important, the goal for any playoff bound team is to secure as many opportunities to play in front of their own fans as much as possible come April and May.
For many teams, the sound of a raucous crowd and the comfort of a home jersey makes a drastic difference in their performance. Teams like the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics, both mediocre road teams, are completely different animals in their own arenas.
Obviously, going undefeated at home against the league's best competition is no easy task, but if any team will manage such a feat, it is going to be one of these four squads.
Here are the playoff-bound teams with the best chance to go undefeated in the postseason.
The Boston Celtics looked pedestrian in a one-point road loss to the New Orleans Hornets, but the reality is, this is not a team that has thrived away from TD Garden. Away from the friendly confines of home, this team is a mere 12-21, the worst of any Eastern Conference playoff team.
However, they boast a 24-10 record in the arena that houses their 17 championships. That mark has them trailing just Miami and the Indiana Pacers in their conference, and Boston recently had an 11-game home winning streak snapped in their 105-103 loss to Miami.
The Celtics' early season struggles have them in position for either a sixth or seventh seed, but they will most certainly be one of the most-feared low seeds in the entire league. This is a team with serious playoff acumen, and one that knows what it takes to win the games that matter most.
Though Boston has serious trouble scoring, ranking 18th in the league at 96 points per game, they continue to play stellar defense. Led by Kevin Garnett on the interior and the tandem of Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley on the perimeter, Boston gives up just 95.6 points per game, good for seventh in the NBA.
The Celtics also have as great a sense of urgency as any team in the playoff picture. It is unclear how many years are left for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and though the chances are slim, this might be Boston's last chance to bring home Banner No. 18 with Pierce and KG leading the way.
That may not seem like much now as the Celts struggle to beat mediocre teams on the road, but with their backs against the wall in the playoffs, this is a team that will use their shrinking title window and the support of the raucous Boston faithful to win big at home.
As impressive as the Miami Heat's home record is, it comes with the caveat that they play in a fairly weak Eastern Conference. The Denver Nuggets have the same record in a brutal Western Conference and in a Northwest Division that features three other teams vying for postseason spots.
Denver has always been a strong home team under George Karl, but their performance in the Pepsi Center this season has perhaps been their most dominant. The only blemishes on their record are a five-point loss to Miami and two curious four-point defeats—one each to the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Washington Wizards.
The Minnesota loss came with the asterisk that Ty Lawson was nursing a strained Achilles and playing just 23 minutes at far less than full strength.
The combination of Denver's altitude and the Nuggets' relentless, attacking style of offense is simply too difficult for most teams to keep up with for 48 minutes. Denver is far from a great shooting team, but they have the depth and athleticism to absolutely wear down their opponents.
They also have one of the league's most dedicated fanbases, a group that is used to success and expects it on a nightly basis.
Though Denver is a poor defensive team, allowing 101.1 points per game, they rank third in the NBA in scoring at 106.1, second in rebounds at 45.2 and third in assists at 24.4. Without a superstar dominating the ball, they move the rock extremely well and use their length to dominate the glass.
Currently jockeying with the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies for home-court advantage in the first round, expect this Nuggets team to finish with a top-four seed and be all but unbeatable in the Mile High City.
Currently riding the second longest win streak in NBA history, the Miami Heat look like they might not lose in the playoffs at all, let alone at home. The Heat boast a 30-3 home record, tied with the Denver Nuggets for the best in the league.
On the season, their only home losses came in a blowout defeat to the New York Knicks, a two-point loss to the Golden State Warriors and a seven-point loss to the Chicago Bulls—all teams that will most likely make the playoffs.
With an 11.5 game lead over the Indiana Pacers for the Eastern Conference's top playoff seed, Miami has all but locked up home court until the Finals. They are now in the midst of a battle with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder for the league's best overall record and home court throughout.
Heat fans have been much maligned around the league for showing up late and seeming disinterested at times, but in the playoffs they are fired up and the atmosphere becomes absolutely electric. Throw in a few Dwyane Wade to LeBron James alley-oops, and the AmericanAirlines Arena will be absolutely deafening.
Despite still ranking last in the league in rebounding at 38.4, their team defense has picked up considerably since the beginning of the season. They rank eighth in the league in points per game (103.4) while giving up 95.9.
With LeBron playing the best basketball of his brilliant career, and a slew of capable players surrounding him and Wade, it is hard to see any squad taking out Miami at home.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Even on television, the atmosphere at Chesapeake Energy Arena just seems more intense than anywhere else in the NBA. As a one-sports-team city, Oklahoma City is fully behind their Thunder, and that creates a chaotic college-like environment that rattles the Thunder's opponents.
On their home court, the Thunder have a stellar 30-5 record, with their only defeats coming to five playoff-bound teams: the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets.
Kevin Durant has emerged as a dominant all-around player, and with James Harden in Houston, Russell Westbrook has better-reconciled his scoring mindset with his point guard abilities.
During his fourth year in the league, Serge Ibaka is thriving in a more featured role, averaging career highs in points and rebounds per game as well as field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage.
Though they lack a third playmaker on the offensive end, the Thunder's ability to penetrate and create high percentage looks has made them the NBA's highest scoring team at 106.4 points per game. They have the ability of ripping off scoring runs at any given point thanks to the explosiveness of Durant and Westbrook.
Beyond just their offense, though, the Thunder protect the rim and force opponents to beat them from the perimeter. Their 97.3 points given up per game seem mediocre, but that is more a product of the pace they play at then their defensive ability.
The Thunder are also playing with an edge in 2012-13 that they simply have not had before. Hardened by their crushing 2012 Finals loss, this team is playing with a mean streak, and that shows in their more aggressive mentality on both ends of the court.
Where last year's Thunder would settle for too many jumpers, this year's team attacks the basket and forces the issue, feeding off of the passion and emotion of their home crowd.
San Antonio Spurs
Another year, another 60-win season on the horizon for the San Antonio Spurs. Despite injuries to Tony Parker and Tim Duncan during the course of the year, Gregg Popovich's squad has used their depth and lights-out efficiency to remain atop the Western Conference.
A major reason that they are poised to be the west's top overall seed is their play at home, where San Antonio is a blistering 30-4. Their only losses at the AT&T Center have come to New York, the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix in overtime and a surprising blowout defeat to Portland, where they gave up 136 points.
What sets this year's San Antonio team apart from their 2010-11 and 2011-12 incarnations is that this team plays as well on the defensive end as it does on the offensive end. Not only is the team fourth in points per game at 104.4, but they also yield just 96.4 points on average, good for 11th overall.
That is particularly remarkable considering that this team looks to run at every opportunity and plays a high-possession brand of basketball.
With Tim Duncan experiencing an unexpected resurgence and Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter coming into their own as defensive players on the perimeter and the post, respectively, this team has the championship-level defense it has lacked in years past.
Though the Western Conference playoffs are consistently brutal, San Antonio should hold on to the top seed and earn themselves home court throughout.
Much like the Celtics, the Spurs have a fan base that understands this team is going to be retooling their roster in the near future and that they only have a few more runs with Duncan and Manu Ginobili in starring roles.