The NBA playoffs may force a rabid spectator to ponder the potential home court advantage in sports. We visited this powerful place in a piece during the NCAA basketball tournament, but a single elimination format leaves much room for error in the home favor foray. In a potential seven game series, surrounding a team with stability seems to be much more a strength. Being at home for multiple games allows a team to take refuge in a less vulnerable environment even though intensity is increased.
Celtics fans were first-hand observers of both the drudgery and domination that develops during a two-two-one-one-one playoff format. Four home games at the Garden resulted in as many victories by an average of 25.25 points. Three contests in Atlanta dealt the C’s that many losses. Although the total points by which Boston was defeated happened to be just 17, a loss is a loss is a loss. At home, though, the Celtics were much more moved, feeling as thought they were sent by some spiritual deity that would have shipped them off to a remote island had they even thought about playing a close game.
What happened on the road? Inept energy? Too much travel? Fuddled focus? The Hawks soared in their sky but drowned in Boston’s bottle. Same players. Same coaches. Same plays. Same lineups. League assigned officials…Different fans. I guess the crowd does cause the variance. Wouldn’t it be interesting to run that experiment using the audience as the predictor? Take them away and see what happens in the opposing arena?
And what about what losing on the road can do? The fatigue and frustration from being among strangers sometimes forces one to lose it during fiery action (see Marvin’s take down of Rajon in Boston or Paul Pierce’s headband fling in Atlanta).
So far (and historically), it’s good to be at home. In the first round of this year’s playoffs, home teams went 32-12 and three series featured a 3-3 mark in one’s own confines.
By the way - the Celtics only lost six games at home all season! And their margin of victory for the year was more than ten points, which puts them up there with Michael Jordan’s championship Bulls teams.