We may only be a little over a quarter of the way through the season, but home court advantage in the playoffs is starting to look like a big deal for the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Sunday’s three point win over the Orlando Magic, the Thunder improved to 12-0 at home this season, as opposed to their 8-4 record on the road. The Chesapeake Arena has proven to be a major plus for the Thunder during games.
It should come as no surprise that home court is advantageous to teams, but the Thunder seem to have it figured out better than anyone else. The loud and energetic fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena create an incredible environment that Kevin Durant and the gang have responded for all season. With their 12-0 mark, the Thunder are the only undefeated team at home in the NBA, and they look to improve upon the record with a Thursday night showdown against the Chicago Bulls and tie the franchise record for best home record to start a season at 13-0 with the 1976-1977 SuperSonics.
Also not to be forgotten is the Thunder’s ability to avenge their road losses. Of their four losses, the Thunder have defeated three of those teams in a rematch at home later that season (Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors). Only the loss to the Portland Trail Blazers remains unavenged, but the team has the opportunity to change that on New Year’s Eve in Oklahoma City.
Obviously, it is extremely unlikely that the Thunder will run the table at home, and breaking any records is just as unlikely. The record for the longest home winning streak is 44 games, held by the Chicago Bulls over two seasons from 1995 to 1996. The record for best home record in a season is held by the 1986 Boston Celtics, who finished 40-1 at home. At such an early stage in the season, it is foolish to start comparing the Thunder’s pace with these records, but it sure gives some hope. Both the 1986 Celtics and 1996 Bulls went on to win NBA titles in six games, also winning all of their home games in the Finals.
Yes, it’s too early for that information to prematurely crown the Thunder as the 2014 NBA champs, but it sure does give reason for optimism. If the Thunder can be consistently this good at home, what’s to stop them from winning it all? With a young cast that feeds off of the energy of the fans in the Chesapeake Arena, the confidence levels of the players is much higher at home. Point Guard Russell Westbrook, when asked about the hot start at home in an interview, said that “[The team] never really talked about it, to tell you the truth. But I think as individuals and around the locker room, we do a good job of just coming in here taking care of our fans and coming in and competing each and every night and trying to win the game”. That’s about all that can be said, in earnest. Players love the energy at home and, as a result, feel more compelled to win for the home crowd.
The Thunder don’t necessarily have an easy path to keep the home streak alive. Their next two home games are against the Bulls and Toronto Raptors, games that they should win. But after that, they take on the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, two tougher matchups with Western Conference elites that will test the strength of the Thunder at home. Like I said, it is too early in the season to say anything is a definite, but the Thunder would have to feel pretty good if they finished atop the Western Conference with home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Read more Thunder rumors, news and opinion on our Oklahoma City Thunder page