This is the intriguing part of the NBA playoff system; games 3,4,5, and 6. So often, and in every case in this year’s second round, the home team wins the first two games putting the underdog in what looks to be an impossible 0-2 hole. However, this is where those underdogs have a chance to turn the series. Three of the next four games would be at the home court of the ‘dog. If they, in this case, San Antonio, Utah, Cleveland, and Orlando, can hold serve and win at home in games 3 and 4, then they have a real chance. At that point, they would go back on the road for a game 5, but with the momentum of winning two in a row. This is exactly what Cleveland did to Detroit last year.
So far, The Spurs and Magic have done what they needed to do in winning game 3. With Chauncey Billups hurt, I would suspect that Orlando will win game 4 as well. Can Cleveland and Utah win two in a row at home? I don’t know. Look at it this way. We all know who’s supposed to win each series. It’s the team with the home court advantage, which they earned by having a better regular season record. If this better team gets dumped at home in games 1 or 2, it can serve as a wake-up call. However, if they win games 1 and 2, and then drop games 3 and 4 on the road, it’s easy to “expect “ to win when you come back home. If they get surprised in game 5, then they are forced to stave off elimination on the road, which is never easy. There wake-up call may be too late.
While some baseball teams have great home records, the home field is not nearly as big of an influence as the other team’s starting pitcher. Hockey is the same way. Everyone wants to play at home, but if the visiting goalie is hot, the home shirts are in trouble. Basketball is different. It is very hard to beat a good team on their court in the playoffs. That’s why in the NBA they often refer to it as “stealing” a game on the road. I’ve always thought that if the lesser team was going to steal a game, or a series, from the better team, its best chance would be in game 5.
That is, as long as they take care of games 3 and 4.