NBA Travel Alert: A Trend Even the Golden State Warriors Struggle to Break

NBA Travel Alert: A Trend Even the Golden State Warriors Struggle to Break article feature image

Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant (35), center DeMarcus Cousins (0), and guard Stephen Curry (30)

Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

  • NBA teams have historically struggled in East Coast games after playing on the West Coast, covering just 46.2% of games since 2005.
  • The two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors have struggled in this spot as well (5-6-1 against the spread) under Steve Kerr.
  • Where the defending champs have struggled the most is in the first half.

The idea came while watching a Golden State Warriors-New York Knicks game on a Friday night, and morphed into an NBA betting trend worth following.

The Game

On Thursday night, the Warriors begin their first five-game road trip of the season, starting on the East Coast in Toronto as an 8.5-point underdog on the road.

Prior to its road trip, Golden State hosted the Magic at Oracle Arena on Monday, beating Orlando, 116-110, and failing just short of the 6.5-point spread.

Why does this all matter? Let Steph Curry explain …

The Setup

Back on Oct. 26, the Golden State Warriors were on the road facing the New York Knicks two days after playing the Wizards back home in Oakland.

The Warriors closed as 12.5-point road favorites in New York, including 6.5-point favorites in the first half. Golden State started a bit sluggish, down, 8-2, early on and was tied with the Knicks, 25-25, at the end of the first quarter.

By the half, the Warriors and Knicks were level at 53, with New York covering the first-half spread and Curry having this to say to MSG sideline reporter Rebecca Haarlow:

In the second half, the Warriors outscored the Knicks, 75-47, shooting 66.7% from the field, including 11-19 from downtown. And just like that, the Warriors were back.

This caught my attention regarding Curry’s quote:

“Everybody has to play the same schedule. When you fly cross-country, sometimes it takes a little longer to get into the game and we were just a step slow in the first half and they obviously played hard and executed.”

The Systems

Using Bet Labs, my ultimate goal was to look at how different teams performed early in games after they played their previous game in the Pacific time zone and are now playing in the Eastern time zone — making sure to remove any opponents facing a similar travel advisory, as well.

Full Game

Since the 2005-06 season, teams that played their previous game in the Pacific time zone and are now playing in the Eastern time zone are 150-175-9 (46.2%) against the spread (ATS).

Idea #1: What happens if those teams traveling east have high expectations entering the game?

Teams that made the playoffs the season prior, that also traveled west to east, are 61-86-3 ATS (41.5%), failing to cover the spread by 2.6 PPG.

First Half

The angle I really wanted to explore was how these teams performed early when having to travel across the country.

Idea #2: What happens in the first half to those teams traveling east from west with high expectations?

Teams that made the playoffs the season prior, that travel west to east, are 65-83-2 (43.9%) against the first-half spread.

Idea #3: What happens to the teams in this spot that are good this season?

Teams that are over .500 straight up (SU) for the current season, that travel west to east, are 61-81-2 (43%) against the first-half spread.

Second Half

What comes up, must come down … right?

Idea #4: What happens in the second half to those teams traveling east from west with high expectations, that struggled so mightily in the first half?

The playoff teams that struggled in the first half in “Idea #2,” covering just 43.9% of games, were extremely efficient covering the second-half spread, going 85-62-3 (57.8%) against the second-half spread.

The Warriors

The data shows the league as a whole struggles when having to travel across the country from the west coast to the east coast, but what about the champs?

Here is how Golden State stacks up against the travel woes:

When the Warriors play their previous game in the Pacific time zone and play their next game in the Eastern time zone, they are 5-6-1 (45.5%) ATS, failing to cover the spread by 3.1 PPG under Steve Kerr (including 5-7 against the first-half spread).

When focusing on the first half since 2009-10 (Curry’s rookie year), Golden State is 9-13 against the first-half spread, the second-least profitable team in the NBA, ahead of just the Sacramento Kings.

Bottom Line

Travel is never easy, even for athletes on private planes with the luxuries of the sport in their pockets. From a betting market point of view, oddsmakers do their part to adjust point spreads and over/unders for those factors and much more (injuries, back-to-back, etc), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an edge.

There is such a thing as overadjusting for those various factors and I think over time, for the Warriors and teams alike, the opportunity early in games on such road trips still exists.

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