For the first time in the history of the NBA playoffs (and for that matter, in any other sport with a similar home-and-away series), we have a weird situation where the home team has fared miserably against the visiting team. The LA Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks have met 6 times in their first round match-up, with each winning 3 apiece. However, what is totally mind-boggling is that all 6 games have been won by the visiting team. It’s not a case of 1 or 2 games stolen by the visiting team, it is simply that No One – as in Nada! – has won a single home game so far!
The homecourt advantage used to be considered as a big edge. Among the benefits, the home team is supposed to have familiarity not only of the playing court, but of the entire playing environment, including: the changing time zones, the difference in altitude, the climate, the home-as-opposed-to-hotel quarters, and more importantly, the preponderance of a cheering hometown crowd (sometimes called the 6th man) which can psyche up the players and – wittingly or not – the officials as well. In this record-setting series however, both the Clippers and the Mavs have been disappointing their home crowds who have come to cheer themselves hoarse for the team.
Looking back at their regular season games, the Mavs took Game 1 in LA (Dec 28) by a whopping score of 124-73; the Clips then took Game 2 in Dallas (Mar 16) 109-99; and the Mavs finally won a home game in Dallas (Mar 18) 105-89. All told, they’ve played 9 times this season with the home team winning only once, while the visitors took 8. WTF is going on? Is there such a thing as a homecourt disadvantage? It seems that both teams have decided to throw the idea of the homecourt advantage out the window.
Today, the Clippers and the Mavs square off for the final time this season. Whoever wins advances to the next round, the loser goes home for a long vacation. How this show will end will depend much on the enigma that is the Clippers.
The Clippers are a team oozing with talent. They are however as mysterious as their main man, Kawhi. They can be very aggressive, very ruthless on the offense; but they can also be tentative and seemingly detached. Paul George and Nicolas Batum have provided great back-up for Kawhi, but it is Reggie Jackson, stepping up as the team’s primary point guard, who has steadied the Clippers’ offense. If Jackson is able to set up both Kawhi and George, then the flow of the offense becomes easier, and the Clippers will win.
For the Mavs, they will live or die with Luka Doncic. Luka’s their primary scorer. He also leads the team in assists and rebounds. Given the load he has been handling for the team, he will be given special attention by the Clipper horde. If the Mavs are able to make adjustments to the constant pressure and the different schemes thrown to pressure, contain and tire out Luka, then the Mavs will move forward.
My take: whoever scores the more points – Kawhi or Luka – will bring their team to the next round. Watch out for their individual scores. Whoever takes over will win it all. Gentlemen, place your bets!
Cover photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News. Other photos courtesy of CBS Sports, DetroitNews.com, DailyNews.com, ESPN.com, the LA Times, azcentral.com, Sportskeeda and Dallas News.