May 31, 2011, 6:42 PM EDT
The 2-3-2 format of the NBA Finals makes home-court a huge advantage — in order to win the series, the team without home-court advantage has to either win three games in a row or two games on the road over the course of a seven-game series.
In this year’s NBA Finals, the Heat have home-court advantage, and the team hasn’t lost at home throughout the playoffs, giving them a massive edge over the Mavericks. How did they get home-court advantage? A crazy final game of the regular season that saw Eddie House pour in a game-high 35 points on 7-13 shooting from beyond the arc as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh watched from the bench. The AP’s Tim Reynolds has the story:
The story goes like this: On the final night of the regular season, the Miami Heat were playing against theToronto Raptors—and had an eye on the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat were already locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, but the game was far from meaningless in the sense that by winning, Miami would finish with the NBA’s third-best record.
Miami finished with 58 wins. Dallas finished with 57. Had the teams ended tied, Game 1 of the finals would be in Dallas, since the Mavericks swept the Heat in the regular season. Instead, the Heat hold home-court advantage going into the title series—hardly a minor deal considering Miami is the only team still unbeaten at home in this year’s playoffs.
Pretty wild stuff. Yahoo! Sports’ Kelly Dwyer is probably more right than wrong in saying that the Heat’s win in the final game of the regular season had a lot more to do with the Raptors just wanting the season to be over than House, Howard, and Magloire giving some sort of superhuman effort, but it’s still crazy to think that House, who’s scored a grand total of one basket in the playoffs, had such a big potential impact on how the Finals are going to shake out.
I’m sure the Mavericks, for their part, are wishing that the Raptors had taken game #82 a lot more seriously than they did.