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Nuggets next step: Take back home court

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The Denver Nuggets did not protect their home court this season, but at what cost?

Time to get back to a little home cooking...
Time to get back to a little home cooking...
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

When you finally finish your data table at 3 am, and haven't actually started your article yet, you realize you may be treading in uncharted territory. If my participle is dangling, my apologies, it is simply due to the late hour and these ridiculous pajamas.

If your Denver Nuggets aren't careful, they could also be treading ground they've never explored before. The way this season has played out, you'd have thought the unfamiliar ground was their home court.

A few evenings back, the Nuggets ensured themselves a rarity: a losing home record for a season. Though last season was also sub-.500, the 2015-16 campaign will be only the ninth time they've been below that line - in their 40th season in the NBA. Home court has been very good to the Nuggets over the years.

But historic? This year? Out of those nine laggards, they've have a few seasons which had much worse home records, including the 1997-98 season, which featured a 9-32 home record in the midst of an 11-71 tragicomedy of a year. With distant memories of that horror and a few others, it's not as if the Nuggets were at their abominable worst.

Where this season does get unique is in the delta between their home and road winning percentages. Should the Nuggets lose these last two difficult home games to the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs, and then somehow close out the season in Portland against the Trail Blazers with an unexpected win, the gap between their home winning percentage (.415) and road percentage (.390) is the closet it's been in the team's history. Is that significant? Even if that trend were to reverse itself entirely over these last few games with two wins and a loss, that same percentage differential is at it's second lowest in team history - the 2011-12 Nuggets were .606 at home and .545 on the road.

Here's the table showing the teams home, road and overall winning percentages back through their NBA inception. (ABA/Rockets fans, I didn't finish the table due to the late hour, but those years were mostly to the positive as well):

Denver Nuggets
Season W-L PCT Home W-L PCT Road W-L PCT
2015-16 32-47 .405 17-22 .436 15-25 .375
2014-15 30-52 .366 19-22 .463 11-30 .268
2013-14 36-46 .439 22-19 .537 14-27 .341
2012-13 57-25 .695 38-3 .927 19-22 .463
2011-12 38-28 .576 20-13 .606 18-15 .545
2010-11 50-32 .610 33-8 .804 17-24 .415
2009-10 53-29 .646 34-7 .829 19-22 .463
2008-09 54-28 .659 33-8 .804 21-20 .512
2007-08 50-32 .610 33-8 .804 17-24 .415
2006-07 45-37 .549 24-17 .585 17-24 .415
2005-06 44-38 .537 26-15 .634 18-23 .440
2004-05 49-33 .598 31-10 .756 18-23 .440
2003-04 43-39 .524 29-12 .707 14-27 .341
2002-03 17-65 .207 13-28 .317 4-37 .098
2001-02 27-55 .329 20-21 .488 7-34 .171
2000-01 40-42 .488 29-12 .707 11-30 .268
1999-00 35-47 .427 25-16 .610 10-31 .244
1998-99 14-36 .280 12-13 .480 2-23 .080
1997-98 11-71 .134 9-32 .220 2-39 .049
1996-97 21-61 .256 12-29 .293 9-32 .220
1995-96 35-47 .427 24-17 .585 11-30 .268
1994-95 41-41 .500 23-18 .561 18-23 .440
1993-94 42-40 .512 28-13 .683 14-27 .341
1992-93 36-46 .439 28-13 .683 8-33 .195
1991-92 24-58 .293 18-23 .440 6-35 .146
1990-91 20-62 .244 17-24 .415 3-38 .073
1989-90 43-39 .524 28-13 .683 15-26 .366
1988-89 44-38 .537 35-6 .854 9-32 .220
1987-88 54-28 .659 35-6 .854 19-22 .463
1986-87 37-45 .451 27-14 .659 10-31 .244
1985-86 47-35 .573 34-7 .829 13-28 .317
1984-85 52-30 .634 34-7 .829 18-23 .440
1983-84 38-44 .463 27-14 .659 11-30 .268
1982-83 45-37 .549 29-12 .707 16-25 .390
1981-82 46-36 .561 29-12 .707 17-24 .415
1980-81 37-45 .451 21-20 .512 14-27 .341
1979-80 30-52 .366 24-17 .585 6-35 .146
1978-79 47-35 .573 30-11 .732 17-24 .415
1977-78 48-34 .585 33-8 .804 15-26 .366
1976-77 50-32 .610 36-5 .878 14-27 .341

2015-2016 has been one of the toughest home campaigns of the bunch. Hopefully much of that is attributable to youth, injury, inexperience, and low fan attendance. If the Nuggets are to return to the playoffs as team they hope to become, and a contender in the long term, the first step is taking back the advantages of playing hoops at a mile high. Next season, it's time to make home hurt again, but for the other guy.

A few other random stats from the table above:

  • That .927 home winning percentage in the 2012-13 season is just gaudy.
  • And still, that highest high is not as low as the lowest low. In 1997-98, the Nuggets won only two road games, a .049 percentage. Brutal.
  • That same 1997-98 season, the home and road percentages round up by the very slimmest of margins. That's almost .219 (home) and .048 (road). I still have nightmares about that year.
  • Denver has had only two winning road campaigns, and one of those was in a strike-shortened season. Two effing winning road years. In history. Holy crap snacks. But... let's fix home first. Why? Because you're going to hate this last one...
  • In the 18 seasons in which Denver has won at least 15 road games, this will be the first time they're sitting at home for the playoffs. If you can fix home, you're already in for that next step. Time to take back our house.