The NBA regular season is a grueling test of endurance and stamina that will challenge players both physically and mentally.
Packed with 82 games worth of battles, forced into a tight window between the end of October and mid-April it means there will be plenty of exhausting weeks filled with three-, four- or even five-game schedules, with constant back-to-back games. That’s not to mention the stuff like practice sessions, shootarounds and film study all crammed somewhere in there. Why?
Simply put, playoffs. Specifically, home-court advantage during the championship period.
Throughout this season, the Miami Heat have been coasting somewhat (whether intentionally or otherwise) and have downplayed the importance of having home-court advantage in the postseason, but I sense that they may be telling a bit of white lie.
Just think back to last year’s NBA Finals for example, can you really picture Chris Bosh grabbing that rebound and Ray Allen hitting that historic 3-pointer if game six was at the AT&T Center? Or LeBron James getting a clear lane to the basket in the dying seconds of Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals if it was in Indianapolis?
OK, maybe you can, but the point is that the chances of those events occurring away from the AA Arena are significantly lower.
Granted I am being presumptuous in assuming they happened due to the “magic” of being at home, so let’s look at the figures.
Between 1998-2008, home teams in the regular season won 60.6 percent of their games. During the postseason, that number rose to 64.9 percent. And in the same period, teams with home-court advantage in the NBA Finals went on to win it all 80 percent of the time.
If Miami were to meet Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals (which seems quite likely), then the rowdy Pacers fans will no doubt have an effect on the series, particularly on the referees.
The general consensus is that refs tend to be lenient to the home team, especially when facing a loud crowd. Between 2003-11 referees called an average of 22.15 fouls on away teams per game and only 21.13 fouls on home teams.
This is something that happens subconsciously no matter how experienced the official may be. It’s human nature.
Moreover, in addition to owning the best record in the NBA at 38-10, as of right now the Pacers have the best home record (23-2), while Miami has the sixth best away record (14-9). I’m no genius but even I can see that the odds would be in Indiana’s favor.
Then again there’s still plenty of time for things to change, plus it would be pretty naïve, and quite frankly foolish, of me to say home-court advantage guarantees a win. Though it does greatly improve your odds.
By no means am I saying Miami is terrible on the road, in fact quite the opposite. They have a stellar record, ranking second, fifth and first in the last three seasons while away from the American Airlines Arena. But as the saying goes, “There’s no place like home.”