Let’s just start this out real simple like. Last season, Oklahoma City was 8-33 away from the Ford Center. That was good for (or bad for, depending on perspective) the third fewest road wins in the league last year.
Fast forward to this season. The Thunder won their eighth road game on Dec. 28 and already has 10 in their pocket. That’s like, improvement or something. OKC’s 10 road wins are good for (and this time, there’s no alternative) second in the Western Conference (tied with Houston) and fifth overall in the league (again, tied with Houston). The Thunder’s .555 road winning percentage is third in the West (behind Dallas and the Lakers, who have only played 11 road games so far) and fourth overall in the league.
To me, that’s amazing. We all expected this team to be better. We all expected some kind of turnaround. But that drastic of a turnaround on the road is astounding. That’s typically the last thing that comes for young teams, or really any team. Sure you can win at home, but can you take that same energy and focus on the road? In fact, some really good teams don’t.
Consider: Denver is 8-10 on the road. Portland 9-9. Utah 6-10. Phoenix 8-10. San Antonio 6-7. Obviously, there are still some 25 road games left for basically everyone so things could change. But at this point, OKC’s road production is nothing short of holy-crap impressive. In fact, it’s what separates them from other teams around them in the standings. Memphis is 16-16, but 6-11 on the road. Sacramento is a surprising 14-19, but 3-12 away from Arco. New Orleans 16-16, but 3-13 in roadies. Utah 18-16, but 6-10 in road tilts.
This is speculation that could obviously be wrong, but if early returns are any indication, I’d say OKC is a step ahead of all teams directly around it (Sacto, Memphis, NOLA, Utah, etc.) mainly because of the road wins. Maybe not, but I think the winning on the road means the Thunder is simply put, a better team. There are maybe a whole host of reasons as to why OKC is, but the road wins are an easy place to start.
Now before you look it up, I have it right here for you. The Thunder’s 10 road wins are against Detroit, the Clippers, San Antonio, Miami, Utah, Memphis, Phoenix, New Jersey, Washington and Chicago. That’s four wins against .500 or better teams, including Phoenix (13-3 at home), San Antonio (14-5 home) and Utah (12-6 home). And all those teams are a combined 96-64 (.600 winning percentage) on their own floor. So it’s not like the wins have all come against patsies.
The main problem so many young but talented teams face is yeah, they can win at home. But they stink when they take it on the road. You’ll see a squad with an overall record of 35-47, but they were 22-19 at home and 13-28 on the road. The way teams step into that next level is that they start winning away from home. Right now, Oklahoma City is finding that formula.
Sure, maybe you could look at it that the 9-7 home record is a bigger deal because that means the Thunder isn’t taking care of business at home like their around .500 counterparts, but road winning is the harder skill to master. Especially when consider really the only “bad” loss at home was to the Clippers. The Thunder’s home schedule has been incredibly tough thus far. The Ford Center wins will come. But the fact this team is piling them up away from it, is kind of a big deal.