OF THE DAY
Q. What do you attribute the recent lousy play at home? You'd think being in a familiar surrounding with our great fans that it would help provide a lift to the team. I know an occasional bad game happens; but the last two home games have been so terrible and with such lousy shooting and intensity - especially during playoff time. I originally was wondering if maybe they had finally hit a brick wall after all the efforts and intensity of playing such great ball during the season and especially with all the adversity that they had faced. But they have shown such great heart and intensity in bouncing back on the road. (From Tim in Indianapolis)
A. Teams spend six months battling for homecourt advantage, and yet it is so often yielded very quickly in the postseason, you have to wonder how great the edge. The Pacers lost two of their three home games to the Celtics, including a closeout opportunity in Game 6. And yet, they've gone 4-2 on the road in the playoffs, including the unlikely Game 7 victory in Boston.
When a team is on the road, it is much easier to develop a collective bunker mentality. The players all travel together, dine together and are housed in the same hotel, so there is a much stronger bonding experience. They also are exposed to local media hype, which generally tends to dismiss the visitors while building up the home team to mythic proportions, and that is an additional motivator. There also is the factor of pressure. Teams simply aren't expected to win on the road so they often play more freely and with less angst. While young teams can be unnerved during the course of a game by a raucous crowd, veteran squads like the Pacers and Pistons aren't shaken; in fact, the opportunity to silence the other team's fans is just another motivator.
At home, the players all go their separate ways and are surrounded by their friends and family, so there are simply more potential distractions. Sleeping in their own beds and spending their days in familiar surroundings is nice, but those factors can lull players into feeling comfortable. In the playoffs, that's a dangerous mindset, because the more motivated and desperate team frequently wins, regardless of location. During the games themselves, the crowd is a huge supporting factor that can fuel the team. There simply is no downside to that. But what happens in the hours preceding the game often set the stage for the events that follow.
This got me to thinking. What if the Pacers had to stay in a local Indy hotel during the Playoffs? Their families could still visit during certain hours, but it would keep the team together and just a little "uncomfortable" at home.
It's just an idea, and it could be a bad one. But with the Pacers play at home lately, I would think something like this might shake the guys up a bit.