It's Not Where You Play, It's How You Play
Tonight, the Celtics will try to close out their series vs. Cleveland. The second round of the NBA playoffs have been a home team's dream. Of the 21 games played so far, the home team is 20-1. Of course, the Celtics struggled on the road in Round 1, too. All of this has been disappointing to Celtics fans as they team was the best road team in the NBA this year, with a 31-10 record, four games better than the next best team.
It's more mentally challenging to play well on the road. The crowd is against you, and perhaps the referees are influenced by the home crowd, too. If you've been to a Celtics game in the playoffs this year, you know how positive the crowd can be. Every team benefits from this type of home atmosphere in the playoffs.
But, the key to playing well on the road is to rise above these challenges. That's why I worry about the Celtics playoff chances. The teams that have been together the longest, like Detroit and San Antonio, are the toughest. They have been through adversity and overcome it. This Celtics team hasn't done that yet, at least not at this level of intensity. Basketball is a real team sport. When the Celtics play well, they are an unselfish team. Even if they fall behind in a road game, they need to stick with the tough defense and team play that got them here.
That's why I have soured on Sam Cassell. Like most fans, I was excited when the Celtics signed him during the season. He has the experience you would want in the playoffs. At 38, he can still play well as a back-up. He'd be a great mentor for Rajon Rondo. But, when Cassell comes into the game, the offense grinds to a halt. Too often, Sam dribbles, dribbles, dribbles, then shoots. When he is making shots, I can look past it. But, he has been cold in the playoffs. And, he can't run the offense as well as Rondo. Finally, in Game 5, Doc Rivers seemed to give up on Cassell, who only played 5 minutes. I'd rather have Eddie House in the lineup. Eddie isn't a real point guard, but the Celtics can run the offense through Paul Pierce when Rondo is out and let Eddie spot up for some open jumpers.
By the way, only Kevin Garnett has played consistently well for the Celtics in every game this series. I hope that the Celtics continue to play physical and drive the ball to the hoop tonight. The Celtics have the depth to play this way, even if a few players rack up some fouls. Cleveland can't win this type of game, and the inside play should slow down Cleveland's ability to run their fast break where they are the most dangerous.
The Celtics don't get a rest. Even if they win tonight, they start the next series on Sunday vs. Detroit. Meanwhile, the Hornets and Spurs, who played last night and are now tied at 3-3, get three days off before they play Game 7 on Monday. I thnk that the NBA should try as much as possible to have every series play on every other day. The players seem to prefer this regular schedule, and it maintains the excitement. Teams can get a longer break if they win their series early. Otherwise, the every-other-day pace should continue.