SAN ANTONIO – It has nothing to do with who and everything to do with where.
If you could peek into the viewing rooms where the Spurs will watch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night, you’d probably catch a glimpse of more than a few players pulling for the Pacers.
It’s all about home-court advantage.
If Indiana wins, the Spurs will get Game 1, 2, 6 and 7 at the AT&T Center. If the Heat win, The Finals will open in Miami and a potential Game 7 would also be played at American Airlines Arena.
“It’s not that we pull (for one team or another),” Manu Ginobili told reporters following a weekend practice.
“I think this time it’s different than before because of the home-court advantage. It is a big difference.
“It’s not definitive. It doesn’t mean that whoever has home-court advantage is going to win. But we all prefer to have a Game 7 at home than on the road if we could get to that point.”
A simple check of the history books shows that in a Finals that goes the distance, having home-court advantage is significant. In the 17 Finals that have gone to a decisive 7th game, the home team is 14-3. There hasn’t been a Game 7 victory in The Finals by the visiting team since the Seattle knocked off Washington in 1978.
In their four previous trips to The Finals, the Spurs beat the Knicks in five games in 1999, the Nets in six in 2003 and the Cavaliers in four in 2007. But San Antonio had to go to the limit in 2005 against the Pistons, winning Game 7 81-74 at what was then known as the SBC Center.
With their opponent not yet settled, the Spurs have used their practice time to file any rough edges off their own game, working for crisp execution of their offense and honing their defense, which was ranked third-best in the league during the regular season.
“We practicing, we’re scrimmaging,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “We’re trying to keep a rhythm and trying not to get hurt.”
The Spurs, of course, are just happy to be back in The Finals for the first time since 2007, regardless of their opponent and Ginobili says he really has only one wish for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“Let them play five overtimes in Game 7,” he said. “That would be great.”