Sunday, June 19, 2005

2-3-2 Format Might Be Pistons' Saving Grace Again

More than a trophy is at stake in
this year's Finals

Let's hear it for the 2-3-2 format of the NBA Finals!

I'm still not quite sure why the NBA does it like that, considering every other playoff series in every other round is 2-2-1-1-1, but it can have a dramatic effect on things in the most important series of them all, and I'm wondering why it's set up that way. Why fool with formats in the Finals?

By the way, in case you live beneath a rock, the 2-3-2 means two games at the favorite's arena, three at the underdog's, and two more at the favorite's. In every other series, after the first four games are split 2-2, the teams alternate home games.

So the Pistons, in any other series, would be playing tonight's Game 5 in San Antonio, not the Palace. It could very well make a difference in who wins these Finals. Think about it. The Spurs, beaten and dazed, would be heading back to Texas for some much needed home cooking and an excellent opportunity to right the ship and take a 3-2 series lead. Then the Pistons would need to win two in a row to capture their back-to-back titles.

But with the 2-3-2, the Pistons have the pivotal fifth game at home, and they, not the Spurs, can keep the momentum going and capture a home win for that all-important 3-2 lead. It is a change in format that is unbelievably drastic, when you consider it for a moment.

Last year, of course, the Pistons took advantage of their split in L.A. in Games 1 and 2, swept their home games and won the Larry O'Brien Trophy. It's interesting to note that not only were the Pistons the first to sweep their home games under the 2-3-2, which took effect in 1984, but they were also the first to sweep the games on the road, too -- in 1990 at Portland. Not a bad little statistic.

Tonight's game cannot be overstated in its importance, though I'm sure the loudmouths on ABC will give it a shot. This has been an odd Finals series, maybe one of the oddest ever, and while conventional wisdom says the Pistons will win Game 5, who can tell after four blowouts? Whomever wins this series will have added quite a piece to their legacy. A Pistons repeat would be simply impressive as hell, and a Spurs title would be their third in seven seasons. Both have a lot to lose with a defeat: the Pistons would be portrayed as paper champions and one-year wonders, and the Spurs, if they lose, would be painted as soft choke artists. That's all.

The feeling here is that the Pistons will win tonight, but not in a blowout. Then, I gotta admit, I like them in a Game 6 down in Texas. Three straight wins in a Finals series is a tough winning streak to top, and the momentum will be completely on the Pistons' side. If it goes seven, though, I kind of think the Pistons might be in trouble.

Regardless, this series has a lot at stake for both teams, much more so than any matchup in recent memory. I disagree that the four laughers are bad for the game. It merely sets up an ending that no one -- no one -- can predict with any certainty. It's great theatre, frankly.

Let's get it on.

1 comment:

Christian Buser said...

Happy holidays!