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Home Court Rules

For some reason, the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets didn't get the memo, but this is the postseason of Homecourt Advantage.

It hit me last night, right about the time LeBron James jackhammered that powerful and stupendous dunk over Kevin Garnett and then later when Anderson Varejao hit back-to-back jump shots during a painful-to-watch, 88-77 victory that allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers even their series with Boston at two games apiece.

Don't worry, K.G. I'll sign a copy of this for you! (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Road teams just haven't been getting it done in the playoffs. Through the first two rounds, home teams have won 75 percent of their games (45-15), which the Elias Sports Bureau says would be the first time home teams have had such a high winning percentage since 1990, when the home teams went 54-18 (.750).

The Wizards, Sixers, Rockets and Nuggets are still the only teams to suffer two home losses this postseason, while Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs have yet to lose at home. Home teams are a staggering 15-1 in the conference semifinals, with the Orlando Magic the only team unable to hold serve at home.

The biggest offender of poor postseason road outings has been the Celtics, who dropped to 0-5 away from home this season after last night's loss in Cleveland. The most staggering part about the Celtics' dismal play on the road is that they had an NBA-best 31 road wins this season. They became the first team since Sacramento in 2001 to sweep the Texas Triangle of Dallas, San Antonio and Houston last March. They've won in Detroit, Los Angeles and Utah. But somehow, they couldn't win in three tries in Atlanta (???) and they have lost all four games in Cleveland this season (including two in the regular season).

I can hit this shot in New Orleans. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

This is the first time in NBA history that the team with the league's best road record failed to win any of its first five road playoff games. And for those Celtics fans hoping for Banner No. 17, no team has ever won an NBA title after starting the playoffs 0-5 on the road - and no NBA champion has ever won fewer than three road playoff games.

The woes are understandable with terrible road teams like Utah, but it is a bit odd that the four best road teams in the regular season - Boston, the Lakers (27 road wins), Orlando (27) and New Orleans (26) - are winless on the road in the conference finals.

You know there is something to this homecourt advantage thing when Varejao outscored K.G. in the fourth quarter, 4-0, while Daniel "Boobie" Gibson outscored Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, 8-6.

My point? It was not necessarily just a knock on the Celtics' so-called Big Three - more on them later - I'm really just trying to point at that the reason homecourt advantage is huge, especially in the postseason, especially now, where parity is more prevalent than ever in the NBA. These teams are so close in talent and ability, and you cannot discount the importance of role players because they generally step up at home, when they get inspired by the home crowd, home cooking and home pillows.

Chauncey, I know everybody else is struggling on the road right now. But we're so good, we didn't even need you to win in Orlando. Go figure. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Star players are generally consistent no matter where they play, but the role players provide the difference at home, which explains why Varejao, Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Delonte West (in Game 3) came up big for the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena - and players like Sam Cassell, Leon Powe and James Posey delivered for the C's at TD Banknorth Garden. Those players were nowhere to be found away from the comforts of home.

You can look at the same scenario playing out in the New Orleans-San Antonio series (where Chris Paul has been superb on every floor while Peja Stojakovic played like an all-star at New Orleans Arena and couldn't make a layup at AT&T Center) and the Lakers-Jazz series (where the Lakers bench was huge in the first two games, but almost non-existent in Salt Lake).

At some point, you sort of expect this to change, since it's said so often that a playoff series doesn't really begin until somebody wins on the road. Does that mean the only series that has begun is Detroit-Orlando, which could come to an end tonight?

By Michael Lee  |  May 13, 2008; 8:05 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: What lies ahead
Next: 'Big Three' Playing Small On Road


Nahhhh, it behooves the NBA for teams to win at home. That guarantees a long series which guarantees more ad revenue.

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 13, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

i can't wait for next season to start and Hibachi comes out and owns everybody

Posted by: prescrunk | May 13, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Mike!

Now can we get some Wizards articles? We've gone four days without any and we're itching for some Wiz news.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 13, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Didn't you get the memo? Ivan said he's going to get some R&R the next few weeks, but will be back come draft time. Ivan covers the Wiz, while Mike covers the NBA.

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 13, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we should be heartened by the fact that we almost had home court (4th seed) and only missed it by a few games despite being crushed by injuries. Though we lost at home, starting out the series with a couple of wins might have shifted the momentum in our series against the Cavs.
From the sounds of things, we're probably going to stand pat and give the present team another shot at it next year whle hoping that the youngsters mature. It's probably the best strategy.

Posted by: mark | May 13, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I've read where a lot of people believe that we should give the current team 1 more year to see how they perform IF all are healthy. My concern with this is that if we sign both Gil & AJ then we are committed. If it doesn't work then what are the odds we'll be able to trade either if we give them big contracts? Now, I'm not for breaking the team up either, so honestly I don't know which direction EG should go in. What I don't believe will work is having the star of the team (Gil) not respecting the coach and doing as he pleases. That is a recipe for failure, so if we are keeping the team intact then I don't believe we should keep Eddie. Eddie's a good coach but he doesn't have total control of his team and you can't have that and be sucessful. Eddie also isn't very good at developing his bench and young talent.

Posted by: Jeff | May 13, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

On the previous post, we were talking about potential trades with Seattle....

Another possibility, since Seattle has 6 picks in the next 3 years - would be to try to package a deal that somehow gets their 1st round pick next year.

Or somehow get next year's 1st round pick from either Memphis or Minnesota (package of players and picks, etc...)

Use that pick next year to select Ricky Rubio.

He's a 6'4" PG currently playing in Spain.

As I was reading the reviews on this kid (he's only 17), I was thinking he sounds like the next Steve Nash. They say some incredibly positive things about him... and very few (if any) negatives.

Then I watched the video!!!! OMG. I thought I was looking at Pete Maravich passing the ball !


Posted by: Rook | May 13, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

It's no surprise to me that the Wizards are among the few teams not to get the memo on home court advantage. They have no problem losing in front of the home crowd. In fact, they seem to enjoy it. Otherwise why would they do it so much? Lack of passion, perhaps? I will do back-flips for days if they were to get a dominant big man to replace Brendan Haywood. The front office has faith in him, obviously. Why? If Pau Gasol was to run into the front office asking for an opportunity to play with Gil, Caron, and Antawn, they'd probably say no, because they've got faith in Brendan Haywood. IMAGINE IF YOU WILL that scenario. Chances are I'm pretty close to the mark.

Posted by: knightwolfe871 | May 18, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

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