The “What” that makes an NBA playoff squad in 2018-19

The NBA’s 16-team playoff field offers us a good bit of variety in playing styles and approaches to winning. We’ll see the league’s most prolific (in terms of usage) three-point shooting team (Houston) and its most conservative practitioners (San Antonio). The participants include seven of the loop’s Top Ten scoring teams but a couple from the bottom 10 (the Pacers and the Magic) as well.

In terms of Pace of play, half of the league's Top Ten have qualified ... joined by a half-dozen from the Bottom Ten.

The elite and the dregs in all components of play at both ends of the floor -- from shooting to board-work to taking care of the ball -- have earned their way into this post-season.

But there is one characteristic that is shared by all 16 entries in this season’s Championship Chase – and by absolutely NONE of the non-qualifiers.

Can you guess that key ingredient of team performance that “weeds out” the pretenders – that one column of data, out of all the numbers generated by a 1,230-game regular season, that separates the “haves” from the “have-nots”?

Here’s a hint – there’s an old hoops adage that contends “A playoff series doesn’t really begin until the home team loses!”

All 16 playoff teams won as many or more ballgames on the road than they lost at home – everyone but the Pistons had more road wins than home losses. (The entire Lottery field, on the other hand, had more home losses than they had road wins.)

Fascinatingly, the road-win-home-loss differentials for each team match up with the actual seeding.

No.1 – Milwaukee (27 – 8, +19);     Golden State (27 – 11, +16)
No.2 – Toronto (26 – 9, +17);     Denver (20 – 7, +13)
No. 3 – Philadelphia (20 – 10, +10);     Portland (21 – 9, +12)
No. 4 – Boston (21 – 13, +8);     Houston (22 – 10, +12)
No. 5 – Indiana (19 – 12, +7);     Utah (21 – 12, +9)
No. 6 – Brooklyn (19 – 18, +1);     Oklahoma City (22 – 14, +8)
No. 7 – Orlando (17 – 16, +1);     San Antonio (16 – 9, +7)
No. 8 – Detroit (15 – 15, 0);     LA Clippers (22 – 15, +7)

Abacus Revelation for the Road

The San Antonio numbers seem to confirm one of my Basic Basketball Beliefs.

Notice the Spurs have fewer Road Wins than any playoff team except Detroit – but also notice that they are behind only the Nuggets and Bucks for fewest Home Losses.

A young squad establishes itself first by protecting its home court, then by taking its show on the road.

That “BBB” – no offense, LaVar – applies to all levels of play