There’s no place like home for NBA teams off lengthy road trips
By Joe Fortenbaugh
On December 15 of last year, the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour returned to Staples Center following the NBA’s only eight-game road trip of the season (to date) to annihilate the Milwaukee Bucks by the final score of 113-95 while simultaneously covering the point spread as 3.5-point underdogs.
Milwaukee may be perceived as a downtrodden franchise with a current record of just 22-32, but the Lakers’ win on that fateful night was remarkable for a variety of reasons: not only was that 18-point victory the club’s second-biggest success of the season, but it came on the heels of a daunting road trip in which Los Angeles posted seven losses in eight games – with five of those defeats coming by way of double digits – lowlighted by an embarrassing 103-91 loss at league-worst Philadelphia to kick things off.
For a Lakers team that currently owns the Association’s second-worst record of the 2015-2016 season (11-44), that aforementioned win over Milwaukee marked just the fourth Los Angeles victory through the first 25 contests of Kobe Bryant’s final lap across the pool.
But the interesting takeaway here is that exactly one month prior to blowing the Bucks clear across the City of Angels, the Lakers returned home to Staples Center following a five-game road trip in which the team went 1-4 to smash Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons 97-85 while covering the spread as 4.5-point underdogs.
So what gives? How exactly does a club with the NBA’s second-worst scoring differential at minus-9.6, which also happens to be winning only 20 percent of the time this season, post two double-digit outright victories while in the underdog role in exactly one month’s time?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s the same reason why you sleep so well that first night home following a four-day bender in Las Vegas.
Road trips, whether coming in the form of business or pleasure, are almost always accompanied by a measurable level of both intrigue and charm. But when you consider the hassles of airport security, middle seats and bumbling rental car agencies, there’s nothing quite like a night spent sleeping between your own sheets on a mattress that knows exactly how your body likes to operate when powering down after a long day.
Maybe Kobe and the Lakers just so happened to get lucky in those matchups against the Bucks and Pistons. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s more here than meets the eye. Do NBA teams tend to perform at a higher level in their first home game following a long road trip, thus creating a possible betting edge worth exploring? Or were those two Los Angeles victories outliers than warrant little to no consideration at all?
So far through the 2015-2016 NBA season, teams coming off a road trip of three or more games are 62-35 SU (.652) and 57-39-1 against the spread (.593) in their first game back at home.
That means if you had laid $110 to win $100 on every NBA team that was playing its first game at home following a road trip of three or more contests this season, you would currently be up $1,410.
Here’s a breakdown of how NBA teams have performed both SU and ATS in their first home game following a road trip of three or more matchups:
First home game after 3-game road trip: 31-19 SU (.620), 29-20-1 ATS (.592)
First home game after 4-game road trip: 15-9 SU (.625), 14-10 ATS (.583)
First home game after 5-game road trip: 10-4 SU (.714), 9-5 SU (.643)
First home game after 6-game road trip: 4-2 SU (.666), 3-3 ATS (.500)
First home game after 7-game road trip: 1-1 SU (.500), 1-1 ATS (.500)
First home game after 8-game road trip: 1-0 SU (1.000), 1-0 ATS (1.000)
And it’s not just the Lakers who have found success on their home court following a lengthy road trip, it’s the entire NBA. In fact, even the bottom-dwelling, tank-embracing Philadelphia 76ers (8-45, worst in NBA) are turning a profit this season when playing their first home game following a road trip of three or more contests (2-1 SU/ATS).
Granted, the edge gained with this information isn’t significant enough to warrant a sizeable increase in your average wager size, but it is useful to the point where it adds yet another weapon to the ever-growing arsenal of angles we’re deploying against the sportsbooks.
Now go and get yourself a great night of rest because the NBA is back from the break and there for the taking.