NBA Power Rankings Week 21: The Fascinating Home And Road Splits Of The Warriors

The Golden State Warriors won a road game on Monday evening. On paper, that is anything but abnormal given that the Warriors were facing the lowly Houston Rockets, especially with Golden State entering as a double-digit betting favorite. However, nothing about the Warriors has been “normal” this season when it comes to home-road splits.

Entering Monday’s action, the Warriors were on an eight-game home winning streak and an 11-road losing streak at the same time. Of course, teams are meant to be better at home than on the road, but it’s been staggering for Golden State.

At home, Golden State is a top-five team in the NBA. The Warriors are 29-7 in San Francisco this season, dominating opponents with a +7.7 net rating and, impressively, holding opponents to just 1.08 points per possession on the defensive end. In contrast, Golden State’s numbers are objectively hideous on the road, headlined by an 8-29 record. The Warriors have an unsightly -6.7 net rating away from San Francisco, and Golden State’s defense utterly craters to the point where the Warriors allow more than 1.19 points per possession.

Is this just noise? Probably. It is only one stat but, at home, Warriors opponents are shooting just 32.4 percent from three-point range, the lowest mark in the league. On the road, that jumps to a staggering 40.6 percent, which would be the highest/worst in the league if not for the historic defensive ineptitude of the San Antonio Spurs.

As the long and winding road of the 2022-23 regular season comes to a close, it is exceptionally difficult to figure out what these Warriors actually are. That is compounded by the reality that Golden State won the 2021-22 NBA title, and it is even more blurry with the ongoing absence of Andrew Wiggins, who is a vital two-way cog for the Warriors.

Monday’s win over Houston wasn’t exactly earth-shattering, but it was notable in a way it probably shouldn’t have been in late March. We’ll see if that is something of a first step toward correction because, inevitably, Golden State is going to need to win a road game at some point to achieve their big-picture playoff goals.

Where do the Warriors land this week in our DIME power rankings? Let’s explore.

1. Milwaukee Bucks (51-20, Last week — 1st)

The best team in the NBA stays in the top spot. Milwaukee did suffer a pretty bad home loss to Indiana this week, but that game had distinct late March vibes. Milwaukee’s other game was a perfectly fine win over Toronto, and there is no reason to drop the Bucks in this space.

2. Philadelphia 76ers (48-23, Last week — 2nd)

After winning every game for two weeks, the Sixers took a hiccup on Monday with a double-overtime loss to the Bulls. That was a bizarre offensive performance with only 105 points (in 58 minutes) and a hideous game from James Harden. In the big picture, that loss doesn’t hurt Philadelphia too much, and they will have a rematch with the Bulls on Wednesday evening.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (46-28, Last week — 3rd)

Nothing changes for the Cavs this week. They lost to the red-hot Sixers but otherwise held serve. At the moment, Cleveland leads the entire league in net rating (+5.8) and a 7-2 record in the last nine games is just fine.

4. Boston Celtics (50-23, Last week — 4th)

It still doesn’t feel as if Boston is firing on all cylinders, as evidenced by a loss to Utah this week. The Celtics did bounce back with a decisive road win in Sacramento that reminded everyone of the team’s ceiling.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (44-27, Last week — 6th)

Ja Morant could return on Wednesday, and that is the headliner no matter the recent results for the Grizzlies. Memphis is still without a couple of key pieces, but the Grizzlies have found their stride again with six wins in the last seven games. Now, the team has the chance to really add to that with back-to-back games against Houston as Morant projects to return.

6. Denver Nuggets (48-24, Last week — 8th)

After a bizarre downturn that became a four-game losing streak, the Nuggets stabilized this week. It was only a 2-1 performance, but the one loss was at MSG against the Knicks. This is a huge week for both the Nuggets and the MVP race, as Nikola Jokic and company face the Sixers (Embiid) and Bucks (Giannis) over the next few days.

7. New York Knicks (42-31, Last week — 5th)

In a distinctly late March NBA game on Monday, Julius Randle scored a career-high 57 points… and the Knicks lost at home to the Wolves. New York still comfortably projects for the No. 5 seed in the East, even if that isn’t a lock, and the Knicks have a very interesting road test in Miami on Wednesday.

8. Sacramento Kings (43-29, Last week — 7th)

The Kings are still holding steady for the most part, though Sacramento just lost two in a row. Memphis getting things together makes life more difficult in pursuit of the No. 2 seed, but Sacramento is hanging in there.

9. Miami Heat (39-34, Last week — 12th)

If the season started in mid-December, it would feel like the Heat were on a pretty normal run. Miami is 28-20 in the last 48 games and generally winning more than they lose. Is that going to satisfy anyone? I don’t think so, but the Heat are the most trustworthy team below the Knicks in the East standings.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (36-36, Last week — 16th)

The only team playing legitimately well in the middle of the West right now is Oklahoma City. The Thunder are 8-2 in the last ten games, including wins over Golden State, New Orleans, Brooklyn, Phoenix and the L.A. Clippers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is making a push for first team All-NBA and the Thunder are 1.5 games behind the No. 5 seed.

11. Phoenix Suns (38-33, Last week — 9th)

With Kevin Durant still sidelined, the Suns are having some issues. Phoenix is 1-4 in the last five games, and the only win came at home against Orlando. Next up are trips to Los Angeles (Lakers) and Sacramento before a home game against Philadelphia, so it isn’t a guarantee that the results will improve in the short term.

12. Golden State Warriors (37-36, Last week — 10th)

As noted above, the Warriors are Jekyll-and-Hyde, to put it mildly. A road game against Dallas on Wednesday doesn’t have the best projection given the team’s road woes, but that is followed by four straight at home.

13. L.A. Clippers (38-35, Last week — 11th)

The Clippers dip a bit with two losses in the last three games. Both came at home and, in Tuesday’s loss to OKC, Paul George left the game with an injury that could threaten the team’s stretch run.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves (36-37, Last week — 14th)

Taurean Prince made all eight of his three-point attempts on Monday in a win over New York. He posted a true shooting percentage over 100 percent (tough to do!) and that was a wild performance. It also helped the Wolves get a victory they badly needed, and Minnesota has a game against the Hawks on Wednesday that doubles as a battle between maddening clubs.

15. Los Angeles Lakers (35-37, Last week — 15th)

Austin Reaves led the Lakers in scoring in two of the last three games, including a 35-point eruption in a win on Sunday. Yes, LeBron is out, but that is a fairly wild thing to be happening for a team that is still very much pushing for the playoffs. Every game is huge right now for Los Angeles.

16. Brooklyn Nets (39-33, Last week — 13th)

It remains exceptionally difficult to gauge the Nets right now, in part because of the small sample after the franchise-shifting trades. Brooklyn is on a four-game losing streak, but the defeats came at the hands of the Thunder, Kings, Nuggets, and Cavaliers. Shrug.

17. Utah Jazz (35-36, Last week — 22nd)

Here come the Jazz… again? Every time it seems as if the Jazz are ready to bow out of the play-in race, they go on a run. This time, it’s four wins in the last five games, and Utah also has a home game against Portland on Wednesday. They are right in the thick of things.

18. Atlanta Hawks (36-36, Last week — 19th)

The Hawks just can’t avoid the middle this season. Atlanta is 36-36 with a -0.1 net rating, and a win over Detroit on Tuesday kept an amazing streak going. The Hawks have been within one game of the .500 mark for the last 26 games, setting a new NBA record, and that mark has to continue on Wednesday, win or lose, against the Wolves.

19. Toronto Raptors (35-37, Last week — 17th)

Things are opening up for Toronto. The Raptors came very close to jumping into the No. 8 spot on Sunday evening before losing a tight one in Milwaukee. Still, Toronto is 3-1 in the last four, and the Raptors have a homestand beginning on Wednesday that features games against the Pacers, Pistons, Wizards, and Heat this week.

20. Chicago Bulls (34-37, Last week — 20th)

The Bulls are back in the mix to say the least. Chicago has won five of six, including wins over Denver, Miami, and Philadelphia. They still have clear and exploitable flaws, but Chicago is playing better basketball and benefitting from the morass around them.

21. Dallas Mavericks (36-36, Last week — 18th)

Luka Doncic has missed five games in a row and, if that’s all you knew, it wouldn’t be so bad for the Mavs to be 2-3 in that span. It helps to have Kyrie Irving, but even he walked out of the arena in a walking boot on Monday. Things can go south quickly if the team’s only lead creators are out simultaneously.

22. New Orleans Pelicans (35-37, Last week — 24th)

It’s not terribly impressive, but the Pelicans did just win back-to-back games. New Orleans badly needed that, even if the wins came against bad teams, and Charlotte visits Smoothie King Center on Thursday for another favorable matchup.

23. Indiana Pacers (32-40, Last week — 23rd)

The schedule isn’t doing Indiana any favors the rest of the way. In the final ten games, the Pacers have a top-five remaining schedule that includes road games against the Raptors, Celtics, Hawks, Cavs, and Knicks, in addition to home tilts against the Knicks, Bucks, and Mavs.

24. Orlando Magic (30-43, Last week — 26th)

Orlando is a lot closer to the play-in race than the tanking race, and the Magic are 3-3 in the last six games. It was “only” a 2-2 week, but that is grounds for a bump in this space.

25. Washington Wizards (32-40, Last week — 21st)

Unlike many teams in their range, the Wizards have been pushing hard for the play-in. Unfortunately, the results haven’t matched that pursuit with six losses in the last seven games. The door isn’t fully closed, but it’s been a tough stretch.

26. Charlotte Hornets (23-50, Last week — 27th)

Charlotte continues to occupy its own tier. Barring something insane, the Hornets will enter the lottery with the fourth-best odds, and they can afford to evaluate more than some of the other tanking teams in the last ten games as a result of this projectable situation.

27. Portland Trail Blazers (31-40, Last week — 25th)

Reality has fully set in over the last couple of weeks in Portland. The Blazers have lost six in a row, effectively falling out of the play-in race in the process. After the way Portland finished last season, they could slide easily into tank mode, but it’s also a harsh reset for a team that was clearly positioning itself to try to win this season behind Damian Lillard.

28. Houston Rockets (18-54, Last week — 28th)

The Rockets recently won three games in a row, which felt kind of unthinkable before it happened. Starting Wednesday, though, Houston has five straight on the road, and there isn’t a situation in which the Rockets will even close to a coin flip in a game until March 31 against Detroit at home.

29. San Antonio Spurs (19-53, Last week — 29th)

San Antonio actually had a very impressive win on Sunday, erasing a hole of 20-plus points against the Hawks in the second half. Admittedly, that loss was a lot about Atlanta collapsing, but San Antonio took it and the results have been better lately.

30. Detroit Pistons (16-57, Last week — 30th)

It’s pretty grim in Detroit. The injuries are piling up. The volume of minutes allotted to fringe guys is increasing. The losses are still coming. Overall, Detroit has the worst profile in the league and pole position for ping-pong balls.