Stadiums may not be anywhere near full capacity, but home-court advantage has still very much been a thing in the NBA. Of the ten teams currently slated to make the postseason in the Eastern Conference, only one team — the Indiana Pacers — has a record below .500 at home. The Western Conference is very similar, with just two teams — the Grizzlies and Spurs, who are 9th and 10th respectively — posting losing records on their home floors.
Having fans in the stands is critical, and they surely enhance the home-court advantage. However, there’s also just something about sleeping in your own bed and sticking to the same routine when you don’t have to travel that makes it much easier to perform come game-time, and the Hawks have become a perfect example of that.
After beginning the season a middling 14-11 at State Farm Arena, the Hawks have reeled off nine straight home wins, and they’ve beaten some pretty impressive teams in the process. Their last two victories have come against the Wizards — a playoff team that is among the hottest in the NBA. Atlanta has also beaten Phoenix, Portland, Milwaukee, Miami, and Indiana over that stretch — all playoff teams.
That’s been a theme since Nate McMillan took over. He’s emphasized the importance of protecting home-court, and the players have received the message. The Hawks are 15-2 at State Farm Arena under McMillan; their last home loss came all the way back on April 15th in a game that John Collins and Danilo Gallinari did not participate in. As the team’s gotten healthier, they’ve become a serious threat — one that is nearly impossible to beat in its own building.
That’s why earning home-court advantage in the first round is so critical. After last night, the Hawks are in the driver’s seat for the 4th seed in the East. They are a half-game ahead of the Knicks and Heat, and they play their final two games at home against the Rockets and Magic — two of the worst teams in the NBA. Regardless of who the Hawks play in the first round, it will be a battle, but you have to feel good about their chances if they have home-court advantage.