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Sooner or Later

   by Larry Ness - 06/20/2005

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. The Spurs and Pistons FINALLY treated us to a terrific game in the 2005 NBA Finals!

After four consecutive blowouts, Game 5 saw the Spurs and Pistons within three points of each other for all but ONE possession of the entire fourth quarter! The Spurs eventually won it 96-95 in overtime and now head back to San Antonio with two chances to claim their third title since 1999. For Detroit to repeat as champions, the Pistons are faced with having to win Game 6 and Game 7 on the road.

History says Detroit's in trouble. This current 2-3-2 format makes it very difficult for the team with the three home games in the middle, to win. The league went to this format for the 1985 postseason and in the previous 20 years, just five teams playing the middle three games at home have been able to win the title. The Pistons did it last year and on the way, became the first team in this format to win all three of their home games.

The other four teams to win without the home court edge since 1985, all won not because they 'held serve' at home but rather because they dominated on the road. Those four winners were the 1985 Lakers, the 1993 Bulls, the 1995 Rockets and the 1998 Bulls. In winning the title those years, the four champs combined to go a quite remarkable 9-2 on their opponents home court, while going 7-4 at home.

The 2005 Pistons hardly look capable of winning two straight in San Antonio. Detroit has struggled this entire postseason away from The Palace. At Indiana (second round), Miami (conference finals) and San Antonio (first two games of The Finals), the Pistons have averaged just 81.8 PPG in nine road games compared to an average of 95.4 PPG in nine home games against those same three teams!

San Antonio owned the league's best home record during the regular season at 38-3 and after losing its first playoff game at home to Denver (when the Spurs missed 17 straight 4th quarter shots!), won six straight at home (all by double digits with an average winning margin of 16.7 PPG). The Spurs did lose at home to the Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals (led the series 3-0 at the time) but after finishing the Suns off in Game 5 at Phoenix, the Spurs opened the NBA Finals with home wins of 15 and 21 points over the Pistons, holding them to an average of 72.5 PPG and just 39 percent shooting!

How have teams done in this 2-3-2 format returning home with a three games-to-two lead in Game 6? More bad news for Detroit fans here, too. Since 1985, seven teams have returned home with a 3-2 series lead in this format and ALL SEVEN have won! However, the seven Game 6 winners were just 4-3 ATS in those games. Does that give Detroit bettors hope?

It should but maybe not? A very small percentage of this year's postseason games have seen a team win and NOT cover. Of the 43 games played in the first round, 36 of the 43 SU winners also covered the spread. In the second round, 19 of the 22 SU winners were also winners ATS! In the conference finals, is was a perfect 12-of-12 for the SU winners ATS and the finals have seen that trend continue with the SU winner of each game also winning ATS!

Doing the math for this year's postseason leaves us with these results. Of the 82 games played so far, the SU winner has also been the ATS winner 72 times, including a current run in which the SU winner has covered in the last 18 postseason games played! Eliminating two 'pushes', that means SU winners have also been the ATS winner in 90 percent of this year's playoff games!

A word to wise. If you plan to play Detroit in Game 6, you better think the Pistons are going to win!

CLOSING THOUGHT

If the Spurs go on to win the title, I'm assuming Tim Duncan would be awarded the Finals MVP (for the third time). Who am I to argue but riddle me this? Wasn't Ginobili clearly the team's MVP in San Antonio's Game 1 and Game 2 wins and wasn't Robert Horry the Spurs' MVP in Game 5?

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