Does Golden State Warriors' Inconsistency at Oracle Spell Doom in Playoffs?

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

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The Golden State Warriors might possess one of the greatest home-court advantages in the NBA thanks to the rabid fanbase that regularly fills up the seats at Oracle Arena.

But it hasn't mattered much during the 2013-14 campaign. 

After holding on to beat the Milwaukee Bucks during a tightly contested March 20 outing, the Warriors' solid home record continues to be deceptive. Through the first 34 home games of their season, the Dubs have earned a 23-11 mark, which equates to a 67.6 winning percentage. 

Overall, Golden State has won 62.9 percent of its games this year. Having a better home-court winning percentage than an overall winning percentage is normal, of course; its a rarity for road-winning percentages to not drag down the overall mark.

So, why is the Warriors play at home this season problematic? 

Inconsistency is at the root of the team's problems at home, and that spells trouble when seven-game series roll around. It's important to hold serve when you're blessed with playing in your own city, and an inconsistent team that drops one or more home games during a series is almost immediately doomed. 

Golden State can't afford games like the one that just took place against one of the bottom-feeding teams in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks aren't even remotely good as their dismal season nears its conclusion, and they've now lost nine of their last 10 outings, with the sole victory coming against the struggling Orlando Magic

Yet they still hung with the Dubs during their visit to Oracle, and some magic from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson was required to bail out Golden State after a putrid fourth quarter. 

Once more, the late-game troubles popped up. The team ultimately escaped, but it's hard to view the win as a positive because Milwaukee managed to expose that end-of-contest weakness yet again. 

Granted, Andre Iguodala missing the game to combat knee tendonitis was a big issue, but the Warriors still need to be making a habit of putting away the easy opponents on their home court.

With that in mind, look at the teams they've lost to at Oracle Arena during the 2013-14 season: 

There are plenty of contending teams present on that list, but it's worth noting there are a few teams Golden State has no business losing to. The Spurs, for example, took down the Warriors without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili suiting up that night. 

"We can't lose that game. Period," Andrew Bogut told the Associated Press via ESPN after the game. 

He's right. 

But even more troubling are the struggles Golden State has when trying to blow out weaker opponents. Somehow, the team has actually scored fewer points per game at home than on the road, and that's made it difficult to earn large margins of victory. 

On the road, the team's average margin victory is 10.6 points. After beating Milwaukee by just five points in a game that was closer than the score indicates, the average home victory is slightly higher—13.6 points. 

However, that's a misleading number, much like the overall home record is misleading. 

With a relatively small sample size, significant outliers can change the average rather dramatically. Such is the case with a 31-point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers to start the season and a 43-point win over the Philadelphia 76ers in early February. If those two games are removed from the equation, the average win drops to just 11.4 points. 

It's still higher than the average road victory, but not by enough. There are too many close wins, as seven times the Warriors have come out on top in games settled by two possessions or fewer. The Los Angeles Clippers, for example, have won their home games at Staples Center by an average of 14.5 points. 

Plus, things aren't exactly getting better. 

During the Warriors' home game before the struggles with the Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers came to town and snapped a six-game losing streak with a nine-point victory. It didn't sit well Golden State players, who held a lengthy meeting in the locker room after the game. 

Mar 14, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) celebrates after a three point basket during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 103-94. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-U
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

"We have to do a better job of when we have teams on the ropes, putting them away," Mark Jackson told the Associated Press via ESPN after the Cavaliers had emerged victoriously. "Just a bad loss. Everything went bad."

Now, after losing to Cleveland and struggling to put away Milwaukee, it appears as though the team has reverted to how it was playing in January and February, when the Warriors won just four games over a 10-game stretch. 

It's worth noting, though, that this issue of struggling at home represents only one aspect of the team's overall performance. The Warriors are still having one of the most successful seasons in franchise history, and they appear capable of hanging with any team in the league over the course of a seven-game series. 

But the Western Conference is remarkably tough this year, and the non-elite teams need all the help they can get. Dropping postseason games at home against a team like the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder or Clippers, who could end up being a first-round matchup for Golden State, could prove to be the death knell. 

It's not necessarily time to panic, as there's plenty of time left to fix things within the should-be-friendly confines of Oracle Arena. 

If they don't mend these weaknesses, though, time could quickly run out on any of Golden State's postseason aspirations.