NBA Playoffs: There’s no place like home

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Approaching the halfway mark of the NBA playoffs that seems to be the case.  Playoff pictures are steadily moving into 2-1/2-2 splits as the scenario for the games have begun to shift. I won’t detail the location of all these playoff games but know that the series are played as such. Games 1 & 2 at home for teams ranked 1-4. Games 3&4 at home for teams ranked 5-8. following that point Games 5, 6, and 7 alternate between the two teams; since an uneven amount of games remain the home-court advantage resides with the higher ranked team (in respect to a 7-game series).

Now to explain that in terms of the teams playing…

The Portland Trailblazers were the only team to serve a Game 1 upset on the opponent’s home floor; the Suns rallied for the win in Game 2 and Game 3, then they lost Game 4 at Portland. The Nuggets and Mavericks did not lose on their home court until Game 2, both teams are  now trailing their series 2-1 and could change tonight with a win on hostile-turf.

After thoroughly defeating their opponents in Game 1 and 2 the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks lost to their respective opponents once the scenario shifted from their home-court. Significant to note that the Cavaliers remained in competition in Game 3 versus the Bulls; the Hawks had lost the game mid-way through the third quarter of Game 3 versus the Bucks. Cleveland plays in Chicago again at 3:30pm today. Atlanta returns to competition on Monday at 8:30pm.

The Los Angeles Lakers are tied in their series with the Thunder 2-2, both of their losses came on the Thunder’s home court (Games 3 & 4) and their losses were progressively worse. The series now returns to Los Angeles on Tuesday at 10:30pm where both teams will fight for control of the series.

Only the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic posses a 3-0 lead over their opponents and have won games home and away.

For anyone who knows the playoffs, losing away from home or at home is somewhat irrelevant to the series outcome. NBA analysts and broadcasters will point out the studied percentages that teams who win Game 1 of the series are usually the favorites to win the series. But, here is my point. Some of these losses are inexcusable, the Lakers look pathetic (compared to last year’s championship form), Cleveland is showing unacceptable signs of weakness for a team that claims to be serious about making the finals, Phoenix looks confused and weak as usual, and the Hawks recent loss shows why they are still on the fringe of the best of the east.

On paper, the Mavs/Spurs and the Nuggets/Jazz are the toughest series to predict in this first round, any two of those teams has a solid chance to advance. After The Bucks lost Andrew Bogut and The Trailblazers lost (and found) a-recently-repaired Brandon Roy the expectation was that their opponents caught a break/easy path to round 2.

Fact is, I am an NBA purist. That means that by the numbers, past performances, and expectations I have of this season none of them are coming to fruition. That might sound childish but realistically I shouldn’t be wondering if the Los Angeles Lakers, the best team in the Western Conference, are going to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder! I respect Kevin Durant’s game and the effort head coach, Scott Brooks has put into developing his young talent but if this team does not lose in the first round they will in the second. They were fortunate to catch the Lakers when they were bruised and beaten. I don’t understand why Cleveland could not find a line-up to field against Chicago that would slow down the hustle of Joakim Noah and run a trapping-zone versus the guards and forwards of Chicago who are not known for their three point shooting. The Atlanta Hawks are bigger, stronger, and faster than the Bucks; not-withstanding that they have more capable shooters and defenders who should be able to beat-out any opponent on hustle rebounds, fast-breaks, and steals. How many times have we heard the news that Phoenix is playing better than ever? How many times have they tweaked their run-and-gun-system to never make it out of the second round? How hard is it for Phoenix to figure out what’s wrong without gutting the roster (with the exception of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire) every year? Apparently, that is all too complex for the Suns.

The answer to all of the above is a lack of execution. The teams that are struggling in their match-ups are not executing properly versus teams they are more than capable of beating. This is also the explanation for the idea that once a team is in the playoffs everything that happened in the regular season means nothing! Let’s hope our favorite teams can get it together because I don’t want to see a second round featuring all the favorite underdogs…predicting an underdog is only fun when only one or two make it because if any others make it than they aren’t underdogs anymore.

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