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Art Garcia

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Despite the loss of home-court advantage in Game 2, history is still on the Lakers side.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

History still on Lakers side as series shifts to Boston


Posted Jun 7 2010 11:33PM

The Celtics left Los Angeles with the split every playoff team hopes for on the road. With the home-court edge now in Boston's corner, the Lakers have to be feeling the pressure as they prepare for the trek east.

Well, not necessarily.

As disappointing as losing Sunday night was for the defending champs, especially after winning Game 1 in blowout fashion, history suggests the Lakers still own the upper hand. Since the NBA adopted the 2-3-2 format for The Finals in 1985, splits have treated the home team well.

On 10 occasions over the last 25 years we've seen the series tied 1-1, with the last being the Pistons-Lakers in 2004. The team that began with the home-court has gone on to win seven. The only three teams to claim the championship after splitting on the road are the Lakers (1985), Bulls (1998) and Pistons (2004).

Fit to be tied
Results of the last five NBA Finals tied after two games
2003 LAL DET (DET won in 5)
2002 NJN SAS (SAS won in 6)
2000 LAL PHI (LAL won in 5)
1997 CHI UTA (CHI won in 6)
1994 NYK HOU (HOU won in 7)
courtesy of Elias

Oh, that Detroit team happened to beat the Lakers 4-1. Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson remember it well.

Boston's best chance for joining that club is winning Game 3 and taking at least two of the three at TD Garden. (Obvious alert: Win all three and parade plans winding through Copley Square are set.) Road dogs have gone up 2-1 four times in the 2-3-2 format and have gone on to win each time. The same hold true for 3-1 leads, and they're 5-1 when up 3-2.

Not that the Celtics care about such number-crunching history. The Eastern Conference champs were a mediocre 24-17 at home during the regular season -- tied for the worst mark among the 16 playoff teams. Boston was actually better on the road at 26-15.

The three Finals games in Boston are Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The Celtics should draw confidence from their play at home since the postseason began. Boston has protected the parquet to the tune of 7-2 through the first three rounds.

"That doesn't guarantee we're going to win the games because we're at home," Paul Pierce said. "We've got to go out there and play the game. They're going to be coming into our house and we can't assume anything. We can't take it for granted, so we'll take it one game at a time."

The Lakers get the home-court edge back by winning just once in Beantown. They're 4-4 away from Staples Center in the playoffs, having closed out each of the three previous series on the road.

But the Lakers also haven't been in this spot. In the series with Oklahoma City, Utah and Phoenix, the Lakers won the first two games at home. So in each case, winning Game 3 wasn't vital to regaining control of the series. It is now.

"It's the most important game," Kobe said. "Game 1 was the most important, Game 2 was the most important, now it's Game 3. It's just the next game, simple as that."

It sounds simple and it truly is important. The success rate of teams leading 2-1 that started at home is a staggering 15-1. That exceeds the 12-1 mark for homers up 2-0.

"We have to win two in Boston at least," Andrew Bynum said. "That's our goal going in."

Should the Lakers just win one of the next three, it'll take a two-game sweep back in Los Angeles to retain the title. The odds would be against the Lakers. The only team that has won both games (and the title) at home after trailing 3-2 is Houston in 1994.

"There's no doubt it's a blow to us to lose the home court, but we anticipated this might happen," Jackson said, "and we're just going to have to go pick it up."

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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