Howard is correct. No team in NBA history has climbed out of a 3-0 hole in a best-of-seven series. But even though Orlando tilted the odds slightly with its 108-104 win, history suggests the Magic have only a marginally better chance to win the series now that they trail 2-1. In the 24 years since the NBA switched to the 2-3-2 Finals format, only one of 12 teams has lost the first two games on the road and come back to win the series. And what did the 2006 Miami Heat do that the others couldn't?
They won their three consecutive home games.
That's what the Magic must do if they hope to win this series. They have to beat the Lakers Thursday night and then beat them again Sunday, because history suggests they have zero chance of winning twice in L.A., and the chances are they won't even win one. Of the 11 teams that dropped the first two on the road and ended up losing the series, only the '05 Pistons forced a Game 7.
The Heat of
Everyone else, from the 1986 Rockets to the '08 Lakers, lasted no longer than six games. Last year's Lakers won twice at Staples Center, but one year ago Friday, they gagged away a 24-point lead to lose Game 4. L.A. would win another game, but the Celtics effectively ended the series that night.
So why is it so difficult for a team to win three consecutive home games in the Finals? The level of competition plays a role. Any team good enough to reach the Finals isn't likely to get jangled by booing fans or a few calls that go the other way.
Time also is a factor. During the regular season, teams have a day in town, play the game and fly to the next city. Especially during the back end of a multi-city trip, teams can wear down. In the other playoff series, teams have to travel after games 4, 5 and 6. In the case of this series, the Lakers arrived in Orlando on Monday morning. They won't leave until next Monday morning. After all that time, they might be eligible to vote in the next Orlando mayoral race. By Game 5, they'll feel like Orlando residents.
Also, don't discount the relative indifference of NBA fan bases. No matter how much a team may tout its home crowd, these aren't exactly LSU football fans. They still need piped-in music, sound effects and an obnoxious P.A. announcer to tell them when to cheer.
Still, Lakers coach
That confidence is especially dangerous with an opponent such as the Magic. Orlando relies on its streaky shooting, and the Lakers have every reason to worry that Tuesday's 62.5 percent shooting clinic was the beginning of another scorching streak. A hot-shooting team can defy the odds, even odds as daunting as the ones the Magic faced after going 0-for-L.A.
"This team can stay hot for weeks. ... They can get hot and stay hot," Lakers guard
Without that sort of monster, though, the magic likely won't be back in L.A for long, that is, if they get back at all.