(This appears in my Monday, May 19 column in the sports section of the Business Mirror)
When those 1970’s Boston Celtics ran onto the court of their opponent’s arena, Paul Silas would routinely ask the sports writers how many people they thought were in attendance.
When informed of the number of paying patrons, Silas would harrumph and exclaim loudly enough for all to hear, “Good. We’re going to shut everyone up.” And for the most part, Silas’ Celtics teams (Jojo White, Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Charlie Scott, Glenn McDonald, and Don Nelson) resurrected the ghost of then then-retired Red Auerbach (who moved up to the team’s front office) into the league.
The Celtics, alongside the New York Yankees, were the first real professional sports team to actually affix their photo next to the word “dynasty” (11 titles in 13 years is an incredible feat) where the word was previously associated only with centuries-old Chinese empires. They carved out a mystique for themselves by winning plenty some at the old
It would be decades later when another team would display that kind of mentality or arrogance as some would have it. “Walking onto the court for warm-ups, you could already tell that they (the opponents) were already beaten,” succinctly pointed out the observant Steve Kerr, a mainstay on the Chicago Bulls’ second wave of trifecta champions. The Bulls would turn the game into a personal jam session, hush the crowd, and have the home team singing their praises.
People have criticized this year’s playoffs as predictable as the sun rising from the east. Thus far, the home team – heading into Saturday’s game – has won 43 out of 67 possible games. But isn’t that the whole point – to defend your turf? If a team is swept away can we postulate that they were definitely not worthy of playing in the league’s second season.
The original incarnation of
Conversely, the 1993 Finals between
I honestly don’t see what the fuss is all about not being able to win on the road. Of course the defense is ratcheted up. It’s all about taking care of business at home. No one is giving anything away unless you’re talking about the spineless Dallas Mavericks.
However, inquiring minds are asking, “Where have players of Silas’ and Jordan’s stature gone with their veni, vidi, vici attitude?” Where have all the Reggie Millers gone – he who lived for slaying the New York Knicks in front of their home crowd?
Much is being said this year about NBA home teams taking their lumps on the road before heading back home for that good ole home cooking. There’s that distinct advantage of a rabid home crowd cheering the team aside from the familiarity of the court and all its nuances.
Some like to believe that the home team is the beneficiary of referees’ calls. To wit, Scottie Pippen’s phantom foul on Hubert Davis (as called by Hue Hollins who had the gall to say on television at the height of the Tim Donaghy scandal that the referees were underpaid) in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Semifinals between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks that changed the outcome of that series. There’s Game 6 in the Western Conference Finals between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers where Dick Bavetta, Ted Bernhardt, and Bob Delaney did a number on the Kings bigs (Vlade Divac, Scott Pollard, and Chris Webber) that forced a Game 7 at the Arco Arena. And let’s not even talk about last year’s Phoenix Suns-San Antonio Spurs series.
More games mean more money where an additional match easily fetches several cool millions. Yet as poorly officiated as those games were, the NBA dislikes conspiracy theories about playoff basketball such as the current dream match-up of a Boston-LA title series that has network executives salivating. There are already enough to go around and have made roundball lore.
When the Celtics played at the old
Unfortunately, the new TD Banknorth Garden holds no such reputation after years of mediocrity. This year’s Celtics will have to wring out a win against LeBron James and the James Gang (oh, they’re actually called the Cleveland Cavaliers) and beat battle-tested Detroit if they want that dream match up with the Lakers (who have to survive either the New Orleans or the Sterns who got another lift from an unsuspecting hit by Cheap Shot Rob on the Hornets’ David West).
Maybe then, the talk won’t be about winning games on the road but rather how this was a match made in
(Incidentally, the author would love to see