Predicting the present

NBA playoff rallies by the Spurs, Jazz and Cavs serve as a reminder that things don't always stay the same.

Topics: Basketball,

There’s an important lesson those who would join the sports chattering classes must take to heart. Few of us ever learn it, and once we do, we make a habit of forgetting it. But here it is: What’s happening now won’t necessarily keep happening. That is, past performance does not predict future returns.

The NBA conference semifinals have been a festival of past performance not predicting future returns.

The New Orleans Hornets are the new breed! The San Antonio Spurs are old and slow! That was the lesson from the first two games of that series, Hornets wins in New Orleans. Separate e-mailers called this column “delusional” and “insane” for suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the Spurs weren’t quite dead yet.

Two Texas routs later, that series is tied.

Must. Resist. Temptation. To say the Hornets … are … in serious trouble. Must not say … geeeeearrrghghgh!!! That Spurs have … solved them, reestablished their … dominance.

The same thing happened in the Los Angeles Lakers-Utah Jazz series. The Jazz coughed up a big lead Sunday but dominated overtime for a 123-115 win to even the series at 2-2. The Lakers won the first two at home, the Jazz won the next two at home.

But for Tayshaun Prince’s sweet lefty hook shot Saturday, the Detroit Pistons-Orlando Magic series would be in the same place. But that shot went down, so home teams are only 14-1 in this round. The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers are on serve as well, with Game 4 in Cleveland Monday night.



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Could a team have looked less likely to win a game than the Cavs heading into Game 3 Saturday? They’d looked dreadful in Boston. LeBron James couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean. The Celtics were blanketing them defensively. Cleveland won by 24.

The answer to that question was yes. The Spurs appeared less likely to win Game 3 against the Hornets, or they would have if their uniforms didn’t say “Spurs” on the front.

The Celtics have now played 10 playoff games. They’re 6-0 at home, 0-4 on the road. Detect a pattern there? So do I! They can’t win on the road! That’s it. They have no chance in Game 4 …

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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