The Value of Homecourt AdvantageThe Houston-Utah series is shaping up as a perfect example of the value of homecourt advantage--which is good news for the Rockets, who claimed a 3-2 lead with a 96-92 home win on Monday. Tracy McGrady, who had 26 points and a career-high 16 assists, can advance to the second round for the first time in his career if he can lead the Rockets to a road win in game six or a home win in game seven. Yao Ming shot just 6-18 from the field but he scored six of Houston's last seven points, finishing with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Carlos Boozer had another strong game for the Jazz with 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Things looked bleak for Houston when McGrady left the game in the second quarter due to a hip pointer and the Rockets fell behind by 10 while he received treatment in the locker room. He missed less than two minutes before returning to action and the Rockets rallied to trail by just one, 44-43, at halftime. Utah extended that lead to 72-68 by the end of the third quarter--despite 11 points in the period by McGrady--but the fourth quarter belonged to Yao (nine points) and McGrady (six points), who combined to score 15 of Houston's 28 points.
While it is true that great teams can win at home or on the road, homecourt advantage is a very significant thing to have in a playoff series, particularly one that features two pretty evenly matched teams. There is an old NFL Films clip with Bill Parcells in which he exhorts his players on the bench by saying, "This is why you lift all those $%$&*# weights." In other words, the work that you do in the weight room, in practice and during the regular season prepares you to win in the playoffs. Well, this game showed why "meaningless" games in January are in fact meaningful. Houston finished one win ahead of Utah--one game out of 82. Remember when Utah lost to Seattle on January 12? You probably don't, of course, but if the Jazz had won that game then they would have had the same record as Houston and would have earned homecourt advantage based on their 3-1 regular season record versus the Rockets. In other words, that "meaningless" loss could end up costing Utah this series.
The Elias Sports Bureau seems to be working overtime in the playoffs; they say that McGrady and Yao are the first teammates to each have a 20-15 performance in the same playoff game since Charles Barkley (30 points, 20 rebounds) and Kevin Johnson (21 points, 16 assists) accomplished this for Phoenix at San Antonio on April 28, 1996.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:53 AM