The Celtics have been neck and neck with the Cleveland Cavaliers all year long. They currently have 2 more wins and 2 more losses than the Cavs. So in a vacuum you would think that we are in pretty good shape. However, we recently lost Kevin Garnett for 2 to 3 weeks and just dropped a horrible game to the Clippers. So naturally fans are starting to panic and many in the media are writing us off for home court advantage.
Short aside: I was watching some ESPN NBA show a week ago and Stuart Scott was talking about how the Celtics needed to make a move at the deadline because the Cavs were "running away with the East." At the time the Celtics had the best record. I'm just sayin'.
Anyway, it got me to thinking. Just how important is this home court advantage?
Well, it is very important actually. The goal is always to get home court. It is important. It makes a difference. There have been several studies and articles published on the psychology behind home cookin' and the effect fans have on the refs.
However, as an optimist, I'm looking for ways to rationalize my way out of thinking it is the end of the world to lose home court. So here are some rationalizations.
I could bore you with stats that show that the teams with home court advantage win a high percentage of games in the playoffs. However, on a macro scale, doesn't it make sense that the teams that win more games in the regular season have a good deal of success in the playoffs?
Yes, I remember last year and how the team didn't win a road game till the Pistons series. But I would submit that last year was a bit of an anomaly. Put us in another 7 game series with the Hawks and I'm pretty sure we'd pick up a few road wins. It does get tougher against someone like the Cavs, but I think that speaks to the quality of the opponent moreso than the venue.
However, that's about all the rationalization I can muster.
The downside to losing homecourt is pretty troubling. If we end up as the 2 seed, we are looking at the prospect of meeting the Magic (and a motivated Dwight Howard) in the second round instead of someone like the Hawks, Heat, or Sixers. I think we match up well with the Magic, but they won't let us out of that series without putting up a good fight. The last thing we want is to face the Cavs beaten up and tired.
So we have to hope that a few things fall into place. We have an easier schedule in the second half of the year (with fewer games that are spread out more). So we have to take advantage of that. We need to get through this period without KG and do so without burning out Paul and Ray. We have to find a way to work Mikki and Marbury into the rotation without sacrificing wins along the way. We have to hope that Scal can get back on the court and keep his head away from elbows and the floor.
Oh yeah, and we have to hope that at some point LeBron and his mates will hit a rough patch and drop a few games of their own. Otherwise we'll just have to win a few more games on the road in the playoffs. I think we can do that, but it isn't ideal. Nobody said repeating would be easy.