Somebody, Please Win A Road Game
It's about time somebody does something about the ridiculous failures of road teams in the conference semifinals. If these are supposed to be the best teams still playing, then why can't they do better than 1-20 on the road in the second round?
The San Antonio Spurs hammered the New Orleans Hornets - and not just when Robert Horry dropped David West with a double-elbow pop to the back - during a 99-80 victory that continued one of the most incredible examples of homecourt "advantage" ever witnessed in a playoff series. So far, the home team has won all six of those games by double digits and they have been decided by an average of 18.2 points.
This type of homecourt dominance in the conference semifinals is unprecedented. And it has to cease for us to take these teams seriously. The worst part about this is that players are openly talking about how difficult it is to win on the road because the home crowds are so loud; as if thundersticks and rally towels are akin to voodoo hexes and black cats.
Great teams don't care where they play, and it's not like this is the EuroLeague where the teams sit under protective shields so that they won't get hit with flying objects. They aren't in any real danger. I know fans make tacky signs and make even tackier and classless chants - c'mon San Antonio, you have four championships in nine years, was it necessary to chant "Horry, Horry" after he decked West? And please tell me that some Jazz fans really didn't scream "Cancer" at Derek Fisher, whose daughter is battling a rare form of eye cancer? - but that shouldn't rattle teams the way they have this postseason.
Right now, it's pretty obvious that there isn't a clear-cut favorite to the win the championship, because championship teams historically have won on the road. The defending champion Spurs haven't had a clue in New Orleans, Boston couldn't even beat a 37-win Hawks on the road. At least the Lakers can blame Kobe's bad back for losing their overtime contest in Utah on Sunday and the Hornets can blame, I don't know, inexperience. The Jazz and Cavaliers were terrible on the road all season.
Since the league expanded to this 16-team playoff field in 1984, the fewest road wins for an NBA champion was three, by the 1984 Celtics and 1988 Lakers. Orlando was the only NBA finalist with fewer than three road wins, as they had just two in 1995.
So if the road win magic number to win the title is three, then the only team that can scratch that off the list is Detroit, which is 3-2 on the road this postseason. The Pistons are the only team with a road win in the conference semifinals, but they had to overcome a 15-point second-half deficit and needed some last second heroics to win. I guess it really doesn't matter if you win. But the Pistons have been chilling since Tuesday because they handled their business.
The remaining playoff teams break down like this: Lakers, 2-2; Utah, 2-3; Cleveland 2-3; New Orleans 1-3; San Antonio 1-3; and Boston 0-5.
How good are the Celtics if they cannot win a road playoff game? They are the top overall seed in the playoffs and were the most dominant road team in the regular season but they have looked atrocious away from home.
One of the main reasons has been the disappearance of the sharpshooter formerly known as Ray Allen. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett stepped up in Game 5, and Garnett has been the most consisent member of the so-called Big Three this round, but Allen has been absent with the exception of a cameo appearance in Game 2.
Maybe I'm not giving Wally Szczerbiak enough credit as a defender. Maybe Szczerbiak should be given consideration for the all-defensive team next season after his performances against Caron Butler and Allen in these playoffs. Or maybe Szczerbiak is simply kryptonite for former UConn Huskies (Better watch out Rip Hamilton, if Cleveland advances to the conference finals).
I gave Butler a pass since he wasn't really at full strength with his hip and knee, but Butler still erupted for 32 in one game, and I'm not aware of any major injuries with Allen. I know Wally is big and does a decent job when he doesn't have to move laterally. But before these playoffs, I don't think anyone thought Szczerbiak was capable of shutting down Denzel Washington one-on-one, let alone his former "He Got Game" co-star. Yet, Allen is averaging just 10.4 points on 34 percent shooting in this series. He's missed 15 of 19 attempts from beyond the arc.
Somehow, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers has to come up with something to exploit that matchup to give his team a better chance of winning its first road game of the postseason.
With Daniel Gibson out the rest of the series with a shoulder injury, the Celtics really have no excuse for not closing out the Cavaliers tonight. I suppose you couldn't take anything away from them if they win a championship by winning all of their home games and losing all of their road games, but that would be pretty lame.
I know Game 7 is usually what defines a great playoff series, but isn't also humdrum to have every home team except (Orlando) win this round. It's up to the Celtics and/or Lakers to break up the monotony and end their conference semifinals tonight. But I'm not banking on it.
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