Take me home: NBA teams 37-14 at home in playoffs

Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2004

MIAMI Home is where the wins are in the NBA playoffs.

Just ask the Heat: They're 5-0 in Miami and 0-5 everywhere else this postseason. They were awful in two losses at Indiana to start the second round, then returned to the comforts of home and a Game 3 victory.

Similar scenarios played out in the Lakers-Spurs and Nets-Pistons conference semifinals.

''I don't care how many five-star hotels you've been to, nothing is like your own bed,'' Heat forward Lamar Odom said. ''I don't care what restaurants you've been to, nothing's like Mama's home cooking. That's what we need.''

Odom and his teammates have won 17 straight games at home, a streak that started in early March.

It's part of a general trend in the NBA, where the hosts won 37 of 51 playoff games through Monday night. That's a .725 winning percentage, the highest for home teams in the playoffs since 1990, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Indiana, Los Angeles, New Jersey and San Antonio also are unbeaten at home this postseason.

''That's why you play 82 games in the regular season to determine home-court advantage,'' Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. ''Now there's a lot of pressure to win at home.''

The New Orleans Hornets know all about it.

They went 3-0 at home against the Heat in the first round of the playoffs but lost all four games at Miami.

When a team plays at home, Pistons center Elden Campbell said, ''You're within your daily routine where you're comfortable. You know what you're going to do, you know what you're going to eat, you know your wife will have lunch for you, and all that.

''It's all those little things that make it a slight advantage to being on the road,'' added Campbell, a 14-year veteran who has played in 86 playoff games.

His team won the first two games at home against the Nets by a combined 37 points. When the series shifted to New Jersey, though, the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions turned everything around and won Game 3 by 18 points.

''It was established early that it wasn't about Xs and Os, or coaches, or running plays,'' Pistons center Ben Wallace said. ''It was just about heart and determination. Everybody knows when they get running and get that crowd involved, they're a tough team to beat.''

The Spurs beat the Lakers by 10 points in each game in San Antonio; in Los Angeles, Shaquille O'Neal and Co. dealt the reigning NBA champs a 24-point drubbing Sunday.

The only conference semifinal where the pattern didn't hold was Timberwolves-Kings. Through three games, each team already lost once at home.

In the Pacers-Heat series, Miami lost Games 1 and 2 by an average of 11.5 points and the contests weren't even that close.

But in Miami's raucous arena, where the seats are red and the fans wear black, the Heat won 94-87 to snap Indiana's 11-game winning streak.

The Pacers set an NBA record by winning each their first six postseason games by double digits. But even the team with the league's best regular-season record couldn't win in Miami.

Several improbable things made it happen:

Brian Grant grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and kept Indiana's powerful frontcourt off the boards before leaving in the closing seconds with a bloodied lip that needed 12 stitches.

Reserve forward Malik Allen had 13 points, including 10 in the second quarter. He scored in double figures just five times all season, and not since January.

Then there was Dwyane Wade. The rookie scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a momentum-swinging dunk over Jermaine O'Neal, one of the league's best shot blockers.

Miami magic? Home-court advantage?

Maybe both.

The Heat certainly have no reasonable, rationale answer for it.

''Every day, I watch the game and try to figure out why we're a lot better at home,'' guard Rafer Alston said. ''But I don't understand it. For some reason, guys just make spectacular plays and just do unbelievable things out there. We're all over the place. We're jumping around, we're going for loose balls.

''We've just got to find a way to bring that energy and that intensity and that fire on the road.''



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