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NBA Playoff Notebook
by Larry Ness - 05/05/2008
The series voted "most likely to be a four-game sweep" (Atlanta/Boston), turned out to be the only first round series to go the full seven games. The Celtics, who set a league record for the biggest single-season turnaround this year (won 66 games after winning just 24 games the previous season), needed all seven games to eliminate the Hawks, who won just 37 games this season, while ending the longest active playoff drought in the NBA (last appeared in the postseason back in 1999).
While there is no denying the Hawks played well and with great 'heart' in the three games at Atlanta, the team did lose the four games in Boston by 23, 19, 25 and 34 points (99-65 in Sunday's game)! A few quick notes about this series. It was the 96th playoff series to go to a deciding seventh game all-time and with Boston winning, the home team has now won 79 of the 96 seventh games, or 82.3 percent. The first NBA series to reach a seventh game came all the way back in the 1947-48 season (the NBA's second year), as the Philadelphia Warriors lost at the St Louis Bombers, 85-46 (score look familiar?).
The Celtics are now 18-5 in Game 7s and 23-8 in "deciding" games (including best of three and five series). Home teams won the first 18 Game 7s in NBA history and ironically, it was the Celtics who first broke through on the road, winning Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Philadelphia over Wilts' 76ers, 100-96. The very next year, in the NBA Finals, the Celtics beat the Lakers in a Game 7 at Los Angeles, giving Bill Russell his 11th and final championship (in 13 seasons).
The Atlanta/Boston series saw the home team not only win but 'cover' each game. I do not have pointspread records but I can tell you that in the previous 96 seven-game series, the home team has won each game just 20 times. Now some bad news for Celtics fans. Since the start of the seven-game first-round series in 2003, no team needing all seven to win the series has even made the NBA Finals, no less win the title.
While the Atlanta/Boston series was the only first round series go "the distance," the Denver/LA Lakers series was the only one to end in a four-game sweep (Lakers were also 4-0 ATS). The entire Western Conference first round came as somewhat of as surprise, as for the first time ever, all eight teams in the West had a minimum of 50 regular season wins. Most felt that Dallas/New Orleans, Phoenix/San Antonio and Utah/Houston were all series headed for six or seven games. In fact, the Hornets and Spurs won their series in five games, with the Jazz winning their series in six, after taking a 2-0 lead with wins in Games 1 and 2 in Houston.
The storyline for both the Mavs and Suns were the same. The Mavs' acquisition of Kidd and the Suns' of Shaq were exposed as short term failures, as well as certainly being long term ones. As for the Rockets' loss, this is no time to step on T-Mac when he's down, as after all, Yao was out. However, he is now 0-7 all-time in first round playoff series in his career. Wrapping up the East, the Magic made short work of the Raptors by winning in five games (Howard had three games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds), the Cavs beat the Wizards for the third straight year in the first round (4-2) and the Pistons got a 'scare' from the 76rers but won going away in Games 4 and 5 (also took the series, 4-2).
Home teams finished the first round 30-14 SU and 25-18-1 ATS, while 19 games went 'over' and 24 went 'under' (one game fell right on the number). The "Zig Zag" theory, which has one playing 'on' the SU loser of the previous game, got off to a terrible 2-6 ATS start but finished strong, going 19-8-1 to end the first round at 21-14-1 (up 5.6 net games).
Home teams got off to a quick start in the second round, as the Pistons beat the Magic 91-72 and the Hornets beat the Spurs 101-82 on Saturday. The Lakers followed with a 109-98 win on Sunday (Lakers are now 5-0 SU and ATS in the postseason), making home teams 3-0 SU and ATS in Game 1s in the second round, with the Cleveland/Boston series opening on Tuesday night. Prior to the start of that series, the Orlando/Detroit and the San Antonio/New Orleans series will play their Game 2s on Monday.
Good luck, Larry