You Are Here > Basketball-Reference.com > BBR Blog > NBA and College Basketball Analysis

SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all Basketball-Reference content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing Basketball-Reference blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Basketball-Reference.com // Sports Reference

For more from Neil, check out his new work at BasketballProspectus.com.

Best Road Performances in Opening-Round Game 1s?

Posted by Neil Paine on April 18, 2011

It was a banner weekend for underdogs, as the away teams kicked off the 2011 Playoffs with 3 wins, including victories by the Western Conference #8 and #7 seeds. How do the road teams' performances in this set of opening-round game 1s compare to other years since the playoffs expanded in 1984?

Let's take a look (all numbers from the perspective of the average road team in Game 1 of the 1st round):

Year roadW roadL WPct Margin expected Mgn Diff
2011 3 5 0.375 -0.63 -7.37 6.75
2010 1 7 0.125 -7.88 -4.88 -2.99
2009 4 4 0.500 -5.88 -7.46 1.58
2008 2 6 0.250 -7.13 -6.25 -0.88
2007 3 5 0.375 -2.75 -7.71 4.96
2006 1 7 0.125 -10.38 -6.14 -4.24
2005 2 6 0.250 -8.25 -6.23 -2.02
2004 0 8 0.000 -14.75 -7.02 -7.73
2003 4 4 0.500 -1.13 -6.95 5.82
2002 1 7 0.125 -8.25 -5.92 -2.33
2001 3 5 0.375 -1.25 -5.03 3.78
2000 2 6 0.250 -3.63 -6.29 2.67
1999 2 6 0.250 -7.75 -6.41 -1.34
1998 2 6 0.250 -8.13 -6.67 -1.45
1997 1 7 0.125 -15.13 -7.42 -7.70
1996 3 5 0.375 -5.00 -7.94 2.94
1995 1 7 0.125 -17.63 -6.90 -10.73
1994 2 6 0.250 -8.88 -6.41 -2.46
1993 2 6 0.250 -10.75 -8.19 -2.56
1992 1 7 0.125 -12.50 -9.63 -2.87
1991 3 5 0.375 -1.75 -9.25 7.50
1990 0 8 0.000 -11.75 -8.46 -3.29
1989 2 6 0.250 -4.75 -9.61 4.86
1988 0 8 0.000 -10.00 -9.86 -0.14
1987 1 7 0.125 -12.00 -10.24 -1.76
1986 1 7 0.125 -16.25 -9.91 -6.34
1985 1 7 0.125 -11.38 -7.78 -3.60
1984 3 5 0.375 -2.00 -7.87 5.87

(Click column headers to sort by each category.)

In terms of wins, the road teams in 2003 & 2009 actually did this year one better, going 4-4 to start round 1. However, no set of opening-round game 1s can match the 2011 road teams' average margin of victory, thanks to a 10-point Hawks win & a 9-point Hornets win (plus the fact that every other underdog at least kept the game close).

The best road performance relative to expectations, though, had to have come in 1991:

Year Date Home SRS Pts Road SRS Pts HCA Rd Mgn exp_Rd Mgn
1991 4/25/1991 PHO 6.49 90 UTA 3.18 129 4.73 39 -8.04
1991 4/25/1991 MIL 2.33 90 PHI -0.39 99 4.73 9 -7.45
1991 4/26/1991 DET 3.07 98 ATL 0.72 103 4.73 5 -7.08
1991 4/25/1991 LAL 6.73 94 HOU 3.27 92 4.73 -2 -8.19
1991 4/26/1991 BOS 5.21 127 IND -0.38 120 4.73 -7 -10.32
1991 4/26/1991 POR 8.47 110 SEA 1.31 102 4.73 -8 -11.89
1991 4/25/1991 SAS 4.30 130 GSW 1.72 121 4.73 -9 -7.31
1991 4/25/1991 CHI 8.57 126 NYK -0.44 85 4.73 -41 -13.73

In each game, you can calculate expected margin of victory by taking the road team's simple rating, subtracting the home team's rating, and subtracting the league-average home court advantage term. With a 39-point Phoenix win over Utah to offset Chicago's 41-point whipping of the Knicks, and a mix of wins/closer-than-expected losses, 1991 narrowly edges 2011 as the year where underdogs exceeded expectations the most in Game 1 of Round 1.

For those curious, here's the same chart for 2011:

Year Date Home SRS Pts Road SRS Pts HCA Rd Mgn exp_Rd Mgn
2011 4/16/2011 ORL 4.92 93 ATL -1.10 103 3.17 10 -9.19
2011 4/17/2011 LAL 6.01 100 NOH 1.28 109 3.17 9 -7.90
2011 4/17/2011 SAS 5.86 98 MEM 2.55 101 3.17 3 -6.48
2011 4/17/2011 BOS 4.83 87 NYK 0.48 85 3.17 -2 -7.51
2011 4/17/2011 OKC 3.81 107 DEN 4.81 103 3.17 -4 -2.17
2011 4/16/2011 CHI 6.53 104 IND -1.38 99 3.17 -5 -11.07
2011 4/16/2011 DAL 4.41 89 POR 1.85 81 3.17 -8 -5.73
2011 4/16/2011 MIA 6.76 97 PHI 1.01 89 3.17 -8 -8.92

ShareThis

3 Responses to “Best Road Performances in Opening-Round Game 1s?”

  1. AHL Says:

    The other 5 games really could have been won by the 'dog too, crazy games this weekend.

  2. Jason J Says:

    Agreed. Most entertaining opening playoff weekend I can remember.

  3. Neil Paine Says:

    As opposed to 1995, in which the underdogs delivered their worst performance since '84:

    Year Date Home SRS Pts Road SRS Pts HCA Rd Mgn exp_Rd Mgn
    1995 4/28/1995 CHH 2.86 100 CHI 4.31 108 3.17 8 -1.72
    1995 4/27/1995 UTA 7.75 102 HOU 2.32 100 3.17 -2 -8.61
    1995 4/27/1995 IND 3.35 90 ATL 1.05 82 3.17 -8 -5.46
    1995 4/28/1995 SAS 5.90 104 DEN 0.95 88 3.17 -16 -8.12
    1995 4/27/1995 NYK 2.78 103 CLE 0.55 79 3.17 -24 -5.40
    1995 4/27/1995 SEA 7.91 96 LAL -0.01 71 3.17 -25 -11.09
    1995 4/28/1995 PHO 3.85 129 POR 3.79 102 3.17 -27 -3.23
    1995 4/28/1995 ORL 6.44 124 BOS -1.92 77 3.17 -47 -11.53