NBA semis 2-1, but for different reasons

May 27, 2008 7:00 PM

Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe | As we go to press on Memorial Day, both NBA Conference Finals stand at 2-1 although each got to this point taking different paths.

East Finals

Detroit and Boston split the two games in Boston before the Celtics won Game 3 in Detroit last Saturday night. A win by Boston in Game 4 at Detroit gives the Celtics a huge edge returning home for Wednesday’s Game 5 and a chance to advance to the NBA Finals with a victory.

But a Detroit win in Game 4 turns this into a best of 3 series with two of the three games to be played in Boston.

Last week it was forecast in this column for the Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals in 6. That prediction still holds true but it could be moot by the time you read this. Should Boston win Game 4 in Detroit to go up 3-1, solid handicapping would have you play on the Celtics back home in Game 5 to wrap up the series.

A Detroit win on its home court in Game 4 would then make the Pistons an attractive take as underdogs in Boston for Game 5. And, a win by Detroit to go up 3-2 would set the stage for the Pistons to wrap up the series back home in Motown in Friday’s Game 6.

Should Boston win Game 5, the Pistons would still be the play back home to even the series in Game 6. A Detroit win would force a seventh and deciding game back in Boston next Sunday. As has been stated often, it is very tough for a road team to win a seventh game in the NBA Playoffs. Plus, the Celtics have already defended their home court twice in seventh games in these playoffs – first against Atlanta and then against Cleveland.

But we have already seen a road team win a Game 7 this season and similar conditions would exist back in Beantown. A week ago the San Antonio Spurs won Game 7 in New Orleans, showing the value of their experience over the relatively neophyte Hornets.

Similarly, Detroit has a wealth of experience going for them as this is the Pistons’ sixth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. Detroit, likely as a small underdog, would be the play in a seventh and deciding game in Boston.

West Finals

The home team has won each of the first three games as the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2-0 lead was cut in half when San Antonio won impressively Sunday night at home by 19 points.

The Spurs could easily be up 2-1 but for their monumental collapse in the series’ opening game. San Antonio’s third quarter 65-45 lead evaporated almost methodically as the Lakers roared back to take control of the series. The Spurs were unable to recover and took a 30-point whipping in Game 2.

San Antonio’s performance in Game 3 was critical to its chances of getting an opportunity to defend the NBA crown in this season’s NBA Finals. The 103-84 defeat of the Lakers makes this a series and the Spurs are the choice to win and cover in Game 4. So we see another possible best of 3 series.

The Spurs plus the points would be attractive in Game 5 regardless of whether they are tied 2-2 or down 3-1. They have repeatedly shown why they have been perhaps the best franchise in the past decade and should do so again if they are indeed down 3-1 heading back West.

Pride would kick in and the Spurs would give a maximum effort when facing elimination. Should such a scenario unfold whereby the Spurs are back home down 3-2, they would be the play in Game 6 to force a Game 7.

Should the Spurs succeed in forcing that ultimate showdown in Los Angeles (provided they are getting at least 5), they would be an attractive play to at least cover that spread in a seventh game.

By next week we may already know both participants in the NBA Finals. So either a reassessment of the Conference Finals or a preview of the NBA Finals will be offered.