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Home Court Disadvantage?

   by Larry Ness

What's going on here? Home court advantage in the NBA playoffs is supposed to be a big deal. All one has to do is check the record books.

Home teams went 59-23 in last year's postseason, a winning percentage of .720. That was the third-best mark since the NBA adopted its current playoff format of 16 teams in 1984 (the best was in 1990, when home teams went 54-18 .750). Over the last 21 years, there have been just four playoff seasons in which home teams didn't win at least 60 percent of the games played. The all-time low was in 1995, when home teams went just 40-33, for a winning percentage of just .548!

So it's back to my original question. What's going on here? Everything seemed pretty normal on the opening weekend of the playoffs as home teams went 6-2 SU and ATS on April 23 and 24. Heading into this past Saturday's action, home teams were still 14-8 SU and 15-7 ATS. Then, all hell broke loose!

You may not have seen it coming (like those tsunamis!), as the Wizards opened this weekend's eight-game playoff schedule with an easy 117-99 home win over the Bulls. However, that was the last win by a home team all weekend long! Road teams won the final SEVEN playoff games this weekend, going 6-0-1 ATS in the process!

That leaves home teams 15-15 SU and 16-13-1 ATS through 30 games. Home favorites are a respectable 14-9 ATS but that's far below the 18-9 ATS mark they posted in last year's first round. Home dogs are 1-6 SU and 2-4-1 ATS.

For those of you keeping up with the zig zag theory, playing 'on' the SU loser of the previous game leaves you with a 10-11-1 ATS mark heading into Monday night's games.

Where things stand as of now (prior to Monday's games):

All but two of the eight series have completed four games. The Chicago-Washington series (Bulls lead 2-1) and the SA-Denver series (Spurs lead 2-1) play their Game 4s on Monday night. Two series have all ready ended in four-game sweeps, as both No. 1 seeds eliminated the No. 8 seeds.

For the record, that makes No. 1 seeds 42-2 over No. 8 seeds in the 22 years of the 16-team playoff format. Memphis had been able to slow Phoenix down in the regular season, holding the league's highest scoring team (110.4 PPG) to an average of 95.5 PPG in four meetings. That was not the case in the teams' playoff series, as Phoenix covered three of the four games averaging 113.8 PPG!

In the East, No. 1 seed Miami dispatched of the eighth-seeded Nets just as easily, failing to cover only a double-OT Game 3 win. Miami won that game 108-105 (as a 3 1/2-point favorite) but won the other three games by margins of 18, 17 and 13 points. Dwayne Wade averaged 26.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 8.8 APG for the series, while shooting better than 50 percent from the field. He joins just six other players ((the Big O, Cousy, Wilt, Bird, Magic and MJ) to have accomplished that feat in NBA playoff history (not bad company!).

Pending the outcome of the Bulls-Wizards (home teams have gone 3-0 SU and ATS so far) and Spurs-Nuggets (road team is 2-1 SU and ATS so far) Game 4s, here is the status of the remaining four series after four games.

Houston is at Dallas on Monday night and the series is tied at two games-all. Amazingly, the road team has won and covered all four games of this series and it should be pointed out that an NBA seven-game series has NEVER seen the road team capture all seven games. Also of note in this series, is the fact that Dallas has a chance to become just the ninth team in NBA history to win a seven-game series after falling behind 0-2. A series win by Dallas would also make them just the third team to come back and win a seven-game series after losing the first two games at home!

The other three series resume on Tuesday night. Indiana is at Boston and the teams are tied at two games-all. I'm not sure what to make of the Pacers? They took a two games-to-one lead in this series and with Boston's Antoine Walker suspended for Game 4 in Indiana, lost 110-79! The 31-point margin of defeat is the largest-ever for the team since the franchise joined the NBA in 1976--77. Of note is that the Pacers lost Game 1 of this series and have NEVER won a playoff series in which they lost the first game (0-13).

Tuesday's other two games are Philadelphia at Detroit and Sacramento at Seattle. The defending champs have not been able to stop Allen Iverson (averaging 30.5 PPG through four games) but the Pistons do lead 3-1 and won Games 1 and 2 in Detroit by 21 and 15-point margins. By the way, Iverson's career playoff average is 30.6 PPG in 61 games. Only Michael's career playoff average of 33.4 PPG is higher (again, pretty nice company!).

The Kings are down three-games-to-one to the Sonics as they visit Seattle on Tuesday night. The Kings are not known for their defense and you may even be able to overlook them allowing Ray Allen to average 33 PPG through four games but there's NO EXCUSE for what's happened with Jerome James! The Kings' interior defense (I use that phrase tongue firmly planted in cheek!) has allowed the 7-1 journeyman center (who averaged 4.9 PPG and 3.0 RPG this year) to average 18.8 PPG and 10.3 RPG!



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