Bernucca: Spurs, Heat showing championships are won on the road

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LeBron JamesThe Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers have gotten this far in the postseason by winning at home.

But the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are going to the NBA Finals by winning on the road.

The Grizzlies and Pacers were very good home teams in the regular season. Memphis was 32-9 and lost just once at FedEx Forum after Feb. 8. Indiana was 30-11 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and went more than two months early in the season without a home loss.

And while teams in the top of the bracket such as Oklahoma City, New York, Denver, Brooklyn and even San Antonio and Miami stubbed their toes at home early in the postseason, Memphis and Indiana remained perfect in their own buildings. Both teams were 6-0 at home through the first two rounds.

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Bernucca: All not lost in lost weekend for road teams

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lost weekendHey, how about those road teams in the playoffs, hunh?

It was a lost weekend that would have made Ray Milland proud.

I spent huge chunks of Saturday and Sunday at an AAU tournament and missed several games. When I finally got home and turned on the TV, I wished I was back at the AAU tournament.

If you didn’t watch the NBA playoffs this weekend, you didn’t miss much. All eight road teams lost Game 1, the first time that has happened since 2004. In that season, three first-round series ended in sweeps, four more ended in five games and the lone series that went the distance saw the home team win every game.

This weekend’s road teams lost by an average of 16 points, making it hard to tell whether they didn’t show up or couldn’t wait to get home. The Houston Rockets, who don’t play Oklahoma City again until Wednesday, actually did go home after Sunday night’s debacle.

The three games that aired on TNT on Sunday were decided by a combined 69 points. Yes, We Know Drama, and This Isn’t It. 

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Bernucca: Why the Lakers have to trade Dwight Howard

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Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA. Yes, still.

He also is (a) incapable of making an elbow jumper, (b) unreliable at the free-throw line, (c) susceptible to long-term injury, (d) hypersensitive to criticism from teammates and coaches, (e) more interested in becoming the next Bill Murray rather than the next Bill Russell and (f) wondering why no one has handed him the icon status he desperately craves.

But the worst thing Howard is – and unlike the items above, this is a temporary condition – is a square peg in a round hole.

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Bernucca: Forget the championship, Thunder want a “sustainable team”

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When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden on Saturday night, they revealed to everyone that they are a team far more concerned with the bottom line than the top of the heap.

Probably a bit ahead of schedule, the Thunder reached the NBA Finals last season. As we have said before, they were a questionable foul call away from opening a 2-0 lead on the mighty Miami Heat that would have cultivated the doubt and derision that has swirled around LeBron James for the last five years.

And even as the Heat were wiping the AmericanAirlines Arena floor with the Thunder in the clinching Game 5, the conventional wisdom was that Oklahoma City would be back very soon. Its window of championship opportunity was still wide open and would remain that way for several years.

Why wouldn’t it?

The Thunder had a true superstar in three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant. They had another All-Star in Russell Westbrook, whose ceiling still seems limitless. They had the hypotenuse of the “Big Three” triangle – a mandatory component to compete for championships in today’s NBA – in Harden, who won the Sixth Man Award only because he was used as a reserve.

Assembling a three-headed monster to compete for a championship is not just a theory. It’s an axiom. Ask the Heat, who did it so ostentatiously they obscured the fact that other teams have been doing it for years.

Ask the Spurs, who have contended and won for a decade with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Ask the  Celtics, who have done the same with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (and now Rajon Rondo). Or ask the Lakers, who have upped the ante to an “Fearsome Foursome” of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

All of them looked with some level of envy at the Thunder, whose “Big Three” were all under 25 years old entering this season. Oklahoma City didn’t have a championship window; it had a double patio door.

And owner Clay Bennett, GM Sam Presti and the rest of the braintrust decided to shutter it over a lousy $6 million over the next four years. What a bunch of cheapskates.

In their news release, Presti said the trade “will be important to our organizational goal of a sustainable team.” Huh? Our “organizational goal”? Does that mean the vision is to settle for good because the chance to be great is a little pricey?

And what the hell is a “sustainable team”? Were the Thunder on the verge of Chapter 11 bankruptcy? Do Bennett and his ownership partners have to eat pasta and tunafish if the team doesn’t turn a profit?

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