NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 3: If Boston wins tonight, history would giggle with delight at their chances

Leave a comment

At some point, playoff game descriptors seem to get a bit ridiculous. There’s the crucial Game 1, the decisive Game 3, the tide-turning Game 5, and sometimes a winner-take-all Game 7. Our apparent affinity for odd numbers aside, it’s all a way of disguising one ever-important fact: every playoff game is essential. Game 7s may hold all the drama, but in truth they’re no more pivotal than a lowly Game 2, in which one team secured a victory in order to lock down a Game 7 in the first place.

Then again, sometimes the records of past NBA finals provide us with some interesting perspective on the dynamics of a series. How do teams typically respond after losing at home? How are they impacted by the 2-3-2 format that’s exclusive to the finals? A look back can provide us with an interesting tidbit or an overwhelming trend, even if each series has a unique personality of its own.

Here’s something to consider, from Art Garcia of

On 10 occasions over the last 25 years we’ve seen the series tied 1-1, with the last being the Pistons-Lakers in 2004. The team that began with the home-court has gone on to win seven. The only three teams to claim the championship after splitting on the road are the Lakers (1985), Bulls (1998) and Pistons (2004).

Oh, that Detroit team happened to beat the Lakers 4-1. Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson remember it well.

Boston’s best chance for joining that club is winning Game 3 and taking at least two of the three at TD Garden. (Obvious alert: Win all three and parade plans winding through Copley Square are set.) Road dogs have gone up 2-1 four times in the 2-3-2 format and have gone on to win each time. The same hold true for 3-1 leads, and they’re 5-1 when up 3-2.

Before we go any further: sample size, sample size, sample size. If only four road teams (for the first two games, mind you) have gone up 2-1 once returning to their home court, that doesn’t exactly give us the proper foundations to make predictions based on the outcome of a singular game. However, the fact that they’ve only defended their home court successfully in Game 3 four times in the history of the 2-3-2? It says something. Not everything, but something.

Of course, even that trend is more representative of lopsided finals series (think Lakers vs. Nets early in the decade, or Spurs vs. Cavs in 2007) than one as evenly matched as this. Their proximity in greatness puts these Lakers and these Celtics to buck every trend in the book when it comes to anticipated results. After all, the underdogs in this series just bested the two best teams of the regular season (both in terms of record and efficiency differential) in the last two rounds, and took Game 2 on L.A.’s home court.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are as formidable as match-ups get, and actually have the personnel and talent needed to find and exploit the weaknesses of Boston’s defense. Game 2 seems indicative of how the rest of this series should play out: hard-fought, competitive, occasionally unexpected (like the Lakers’ late-game dry spell), but ultimately so close that things could really go either way.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
1 Comment

James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.