NBA Conference Finals - A Roller Coaster Ride

  on June 03 2012 1:51 AM

Both of the NBA's 2012 Conference Finals series' have been a tale of two cities.  Home teams have won in a dominating fashion.  No visiting team has won in the first 7 games.  A few days ago, people were ready to crown the San Antonio Spurs champions and name them one of the all-time great NBA teams after their convincing home wins.  Shots that were easy at home are now hitting the back of the rim on the road.  

Tony Parker seemed unstoppable in San Antonio, but is now a mere mortal while averaging 12 points fewer than he did at home. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is a scoring machine in Oklahoma.  The same holds true in the Eastern Conference, as momentum has shifted back to the hometown Boston Celtics.

What's the big difference in playing at home?  Familiarity with surroundings is a key reason.  Also, the support and noise the home fans make can be energizing.  However, NBA analyst Fred Carter who thinks that role players make the difference made the one hypothesis that stands out.  

Carter believes that star players are usually consistent at home as well as on the road.  Role players tend to excel at home but underperform on the road.  Rajon Rondo and LeBron James have been the rare superstars left in the playoffs who have demonstrated consistency. 

Kevin Durant's spectacular fourth quarter led his OKC team to a 109-103 victory, evening the series with San Antonio at two games apiece.  He could not miss, hitting six or seven shots in a row for his team to finish with 36 points while being doubled or triple teamed.  His 6-10 frame and high release allow him to get his shot off with little difficulty.

Miami started the series with a convincing win at home.  Since then, they have been outplayed by the Celtics.  Their role players such as Shane Battier have been inconsistent, while Boston's Marquis Daniels gave his team a big lift with strong play which resulted in a standing ovation and Rajon Rondo continued to impress as he has become the glue that holds the Celtics together.

After seeing Chris Bosh sitting on the bench in Boston for Game 3, it seems that his return to the line-up will be in the near future.  Miami Coach Eric Spolstra keeps suggesting that Bosh's return is indefinite.  However, the Heat are missing his presence as Kevin Garnett continues to have his way with the Miami bigs. 

At least Bosh's presence would force Garnett to expend more energy on defense.  Dwayne Wade needs to match the level of his teammate LeBron James for the Heat to avoid losing two games in a row to the surging Celtics.

Orlando Woolridge

A special tribute goes out to former NBA player Orlando Woolridge who passed away this week at the age of 52 after battling a chronic heart condition.  Woolridge played 13 seasons with various NBA teams including the Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, and Los Angeles Lakers.  

He played two seasons in Italy and coached the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA for one season.  Woolridge attended the University of Notre Dame where he starred alongside Kelly Tripuka leading the Fighting Irish to a final four appearance under coach Digger Phelps.  He was a 6-9 athletic scoring machine and was known for excelling in an up-tempo style of play.  He was not afraid to take a shot as he showed by averaging 22 points a game during his one season with the Bulls.

Orlando grew up in a small town, Mansfield, Louisiana and came from an accomplished family.  His only sibling, Vanessa, was a classmate of mine and is a medical doctor.  Through her, I got a chance to meet him and watch him play as a member of the New Jersey Nets.  

Vanessa kept us up to date with his career, talking about his playing with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Buck Williams.  She was always loving and protective of her older brother especially when news of his personal demons became public knowledge.

Vernada, as his sister called him, had a long-standing struggle with substance abuse.  He leaves behind his parents, his wife, and their three children.