Holding serve isn't nearly enough

May, 4, 2011
5/04/11
3:06
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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191-11. That's a 95 percent winning percentage. And, according to the fantastically intense set of tables at WhoWins.com, that's how NBA teams have fared, through history, when they have homecourt advantage and start the series 2-0.

These numbers are as lopsided as anything in sports. I've never seen anyone report the rate at which NBA players make uncontested dunks, but it has to be similar.

In other words: All that talk about "holding serve" at home is, and has always been, a crock.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what that really means is the Celtics need more than a return to form. They need a miracle.

I get the argument that they are more evenly matched with the Heat than the game results indicate. But being fairly evenly matched is not the same as having a realistic chance at winning four out the next five games against the most efficient team in the playoffs.

Now, John Hollinger has been reminding people for years that these kinds of statistics are misleading, because that 191-11 includes a lot of series were never close. Just because Michael Jordan's 72-win Bulls reached the Finals with a single loss ... that doesn't really tell us anything about how more evenly matched teams like the Celtics and Heat will fare.

So, throw out a whole big bunch of those 191 wins which are from series where the underdog never had a chance. So, discount that 191 number. What do you want to make it: 150? 125? 100? Doesn't really do much for you, does it.

Especially when you listen to people who were in the arena in Miami, watching the Celtics lose. They uniformly came away with the impression that this series may never have been as close it as it once appeared. In other words, maybe you don't need to discount that 191 much, or at all.

For instance, Brian Windhorst in the Daily Dime:
There's technically still plenty of time in the series for a Celtics rally. But the way things unfolded in the first two games, especially seeing James and Wade wear Boston down, it's not something that seems likely.

It's not really a surprise, as the Heat have lost just four times in the past six weeks, winning 21 of their last 25 games. The Celtics are staring at the daunting task of trying to beat them four times in the next five games. A streak like Miami's isn't a fluke, and neither is the outcome of the first two games.

Ryan DeGama of CelticsHub meanwhile, is noticing how the Celtics have become the team with the players bickering at each other:
All of a sudden, Boston looks like the mentally fragile team while Miami looks like the group that’s ready to push the Celtics down the mountain and plant their own flag in the snowcap.

Or to put it more bluntly, Miami is the new Boston. At least right now.

It’s hard to take any solace in the idea that all Miami has done is hold serve. That’s starry-eyed, at best. What Miami has done, besides force the Celtics to win four of the next five to stay alive in the playoffs, is demonstrate they have the two best players in the series, that Chris Bosh can play Garnett to a draw and that Rondo can be slowed up and controlled.

There are adjustments the Celtics can make, to be sure. Being rested and somewhat healthy would be big. Maybe next time the Celtics won't entrust the crunch time offense to Glen Davis. The reality, is though, that almost no matter what they do, they'll be facing a defense that is working beautifully, which strong and fast athletes helping where help is needed. In other words, the Heat are really good, and really good teams with two game leads just about never lose playoff series.

Henry Abbott | email

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