Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder notched their 20th win on the road against one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses. Another demonstration of this team’s determination to win while away from Chesapeake Arena.

Turns out, this team is one of the best road teams. They have won 13 of the last 14 road games, with the only loss coming to a fully healthy Bucks team. Since losing their first six, they have an outstanding 20-5 road record. Now they have a better road record (20-11) than at home (20-13).

This has been one of the more peculiar storylines for this team. It’s very uncommon to find more success away from the home fanbase. So what is the reason? Who is contributing the most to this success? Maybe there’s multiple reasons. I wanted to find out.

 

Crunching the Numbers

I started looking at the Thunder’s splits between road and home games and found nothing that clearly justifies their recent road game success. In fact, their net rating at home (+3.9) is significantly better than on the road (+0.9). Their field goal percentage (49% home, 46% road) and 3PT percentage (35.4% home, 34.9% road) also seemed contradictory. Yet the record speaks for itself.

Looking at individual player stats didn’t justify the road success either. Almost everyone had better stats at home than on the road. This typically makes sense as you tend to play more comfortably with a home crowd but again – their record says otherwise, there must be a reason!

One interesting note is their ability to maintain and even exceed their defensive norms when traveling. In a recent Forbes article by Nick Crain, the defensive numbers presented suggest that while most teams want to run and gun, OKC can slow the game down to their liking.

There is definitely something to this, as OKC’s defensive rating is better on the road (107.9) than at home (109.0). But I wanted to know if there was anything else going on here.

 

Clutching the Numbers

Now, if you’ve watched any coverage of CP3 you will hear his incredible clutch stats this season (clutch stats are defined as stats accumulated with a five point or fewer differential with five minutes to go). He is first in total points (144), wins (29), and steals (10) over 42 games. Even if you didn’t see these stats but have watched the Thunder this season you can see that his presence is significantly important at the end of games.

But does that translate to more road wins? Not really.

It does translate to more wins overall, but when comparing his home and road clutch stats you will find very few discrepancies. Over his 55 minutes of clutch time in home wins he has accumulated 53 points on 57% shooting and 5-8 (62.5%) from 3PT. Likewise, his 63 minutes of clutch time in road wins he has 58 points on 56% shooting and 1-7 (18%) from 3PT. Pretty much the same between the two, with the exception of his 3PT shooting slump on the road.

Clearly, he can’t be giving more to this team on the road if the numbers are basically the same. So who else could it be?

 

Vince tutte le partite

That’s right. The Italian Stallion. Danny Dimes. Danny Dunks.

His clutch stats on the road are remarkably better than at home. To highlight, over his 48 minutes of clutch time at home he has 21 points on 5-19 (26%) shooting and 3-12 (25%) from 3PT. But over his 43 minutes of road game clutch time, he is top 5 in the league for each of these categories.

It’s unclear why this is happening. Most ranged shooters tend to perform better at home on a familiar court with the crowd behind them. And what’s even more peculiar is that Gallinari IS shooting better at home, just not in clutch time minutes. Something about those final 5 minutes with the game on the line brings out the road stallion.

Gallinari’s poor home game clutch stats is obviously not the reason they are a great clutch team overall – that can be attributed to Chris Paul, as we’ve seen time and time again. And it’s not that Chris Paul is underperforming on the road, he’s actually quite consistent. But what seems to take OKC over the top is Gallinari’s lights out performances in crunch time.

After uncovering this, I will be interested to see his upcoming clutch time performances, as I’m sure we will have many more before the season ends. And perhaps we can uncover the exact reasons for this phenomenon. For now, let’s just enjoy the Italian Stallion and Clutch Paul as the continue to wreck havoc on the road and at home, respectively.

 

 

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Matt Tierney