A couple of seasons ago, the Sixers played a pre-season “home” game 263 miles outside of Philadelphia at UMass Amherst. Thursday, they’ll beat that distance 13 times over in the NBA London Game. The fans are losing a home game, and the team is losing the atmosphere of the Wells Fargo Center, which can feel like the most hostile building in the NBA at times, but is that actually the case? Nope.
By most discernible measures - no matter how much it feels like it in the building and how much Brett Brown, JJ Redick, and Joel Embiid talk about it - the Sixers play the same on the road as they do at home. It’s pretty much a push.
They’re .500 both at home and on the road. Home games have the edge on rebounds per game (by 3.7), assists (by .5), steals (by .6), blocks (by 1.3), turnovers (2.3 fewer), opponent turnovers (.3 more), ORtg (by .6) and DRtg (by 2.0). Seems like a slight advantage there, right? But on the road, the Sixers shoot better across the board. Their EFG% is 2.8% higher, their FT% is 1.5% higher, and their long range shooting is better by a whole 4.9%. In fact, they shoot better on every type of covered three (and get more open looks) on the road:
Tight coverage (defender 2-4 feet away):
- 34% at home (5.2 attempts)
- 43.5% away (2.3 attempts)
Open coverage (4-6 feet away):
- 33.6% at home (9.6 attempts)
- 35.5% away (10 attempts)
Wide Open (6+ feet):
- 34.5% at home (14.3 attempts)
- 39.4% away (16.8 attempts)
There are a bunch of variables at play here. For instance, four of the five SEGABABAs for the team this season were on the road, which could lead to more turnovers, higher fatigue, and fewer points. Seven of the nine games Joel Embiid missed have been on the road. Ben Simmons has missed one home game. JJ Redick missed one at home and two on the road. Robert Covington missed two away matchups. Add all of that to the fact that we aren’t yet through half of the season, and you can easily see that while a home court advantage could emerge by the end of the season, it’s just not quite there yet.
You could also use the eye test and make the argument that this team plays up (or down) to their competition. If that’s actually the case, these kinds of calculations don’t even mean much anyway.
Many like to pride themselves on the fact that Philadelphia is a tough place to play for visitors. Hell, we hear it all the time from players and coaches. But as Mike Sielski pointed out recently in regards to the Eagles, all that might not be factually accurate. It’s all based off of Bill Barnwell’s “observed point differential,” which is calculated as the difference between “each team’s average point differential for regular-season home and road games...divided by two.” It’s supposed to tell you the average point per game advantage that a team gets at home. Just looking at this season, the Sixers’ observed point differential is 2.6 points (actually better than Boston’s 1.6, though they’re just good everywhere). Teams with reputation for a strong home court advantage - the Utah Jazz and the Clippers - are posting 7.15 and 3.05 respectively this season, though both teams have worse overall records than the Sixers.
A non-scientific ranking from Fox Sports last year put the Sixers’ home court advantage at 18th, and a more scientific one from Boyd’s Bets put the Sixers in last place all-time using the same methodology above.
To some, more important part of the Sixers playing in London is not that the they play better or worse when they’re not at home, it’s that a “home” game against the division rival - and one of the best teams in the NBA - was taken away from the team, leaving the fans at a disadvantage. It’ll be a fun game to watch (#LunchTimeSixers two games in a row), and it is great to see the Sixers getting these opportunities in league-showcase events again, but we should hope this isn’t going to become a pattern.