by John Furgele
The NBA playoffs may be the worst sporting event in modern times. The games are too long, too predictable, too noisy and frankly, too much to take. Many have said that the NBA is in the midst of a revival, but count me as a skeptic.
First, the games are too long. Baseball will never be challenged when it comes to length, but the NBA is not far behind. An average playoff game takes three hours to play with all the stoppages, commercials, delays and other distractions. And, with some of the games tipping off well after 10:30 PM on the east coast, is anybody willing to make the three hour committment?
The games are also too predictable. Only in the NBA can the home team win their games by 15 to 20 points, then go on the road and lose by the same 15 to 20 points. The Boston Celtics are 5-0 at home this playoff season and 0-4 on the road. The good thing for the Celtics is that because they have the best record in the league, they don’t have to win a road game to win the championship. If they run the table at home, they’d finish the playoffs 16-12 and as NBA champions. In their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, after winning Game 1, they beat the Cavs 89-73 in Game 2, then hit the road for Game 3 and were drubbed 108-84. Home court advantage is important, and most of the time, a win at home is expected, but how come the games aren’t closer? It’s almost hard to call the Celtics a good team when they play so badly on the road.
I had to laugh when everybody wrote the San Antonio Spurs off after they were blown out twice at New Orleans in the Western semis. Sure, they didn’t look good, didn’t play well, and had to win four of the remaining five games to move on, but they hadn’t played at their home crib, the noisy AT&T Center. And, as expected, once the Spurs came home, they won Games 3 and 4 to knot the series at 2-2.
The Los Angeles Lakers cruised past the Utah Jazz in their home games, but to no one’s surprise, the Jazz evened the series up at home. At least the Lakers were competitive, taking both games in Salt Lake City down to the wire, including an overtime loss in Game 4.
The only team that has had road success is the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons won two road games verus Philadelphia in the opening round, and after losing Game 3 at Orlando, took Game 4 to take a three games to one lead in their series. One more win puts the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals for the sixth straight season. Maybe that’s one of the reasons they have made five Eastern Conference finals; they can a road game.
The games are too noisy. Every arena pumps in artificial noise to the point of distraction, with the NBA the only sport that allows music to play while the game is in action. Why they can’t just let the noise be natural is beyond comprehension, but obviously, the league feels that they need this over-the-top-noise to get fans to come to the building. Even the PA announcer yells and screams “Detroit basetball” when the ball goes out-of-bounds. If you notive, college basketball does not do this and the tournament games are much more exciting, and most importantly, more natural.
Look at the other sports. Just about every hockey game is a nip-and-tuck affair, and even though the home teams win most of the time, you feel as if the road team has a legitimate chance to win the game. Both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh have held serve at home, but each game was tied or was a one goal affair late into the third period. Last night, while the Penguins and Flyers were tied 2-2 in the third period, San Antonio was leading New Orleans 100-74. Is that compelling?
The NFL, which used to be considered the best home field advantage in all of sports, has seen a change. Last season, the New York Giants won games at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay en route to winning the Super Bowl. In 2006, the Pittsburgh Steelers won at Cincinnati, at Indianapolis and at Denver before beating Seattle in the Super Bowl. The Jacksonville Jaguars won an AFC Wild Card Game at Pittsburgh last season as well.
The NBA playoffs soldier on and on and on. It is May 12, yet the playoffs are only in round two, meaning that there are not even halfway done. So, there will be three more series of home team wins and road team losses. NBA ratings have taken a great fall, and frankly, will never reach the Bird-Magic or the Jordan Era marks again. It’s not that the game of basketball is not a good game, but there are reasons not to watch these games. It is just as easy to click on Yahoo, MSN, ESPN.com and get updates while doing other things. The NBA suffers from the old “all you have to do is watch the last four minutes,” adage as well.
I have found that even that isn’t necessary. All I do is check out to see who the home team is and make my conclusions from there. Chances are, the home team will win and the three hours can be spent doing something else—-like sleeping.