Tonight, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers continued their epic battle in game 4 of this best of 7 western conference championship.
Home court advantage has proved important in this contest as the Lakers won the first two games in Los Angeles, while the teams have split the two games hosted in San Antonio.
While the players compete on the court, lawyers for both teams will appear this week before the NBA rules committee which is scheduled to determine which team should receive home court advantage in the event the matchup goes to game 7.
Under the NBA's rules, home court advantage goes to the team with the best regular season record, which in this case is Los Angeles. However, lawyers for San Antonio contend that relying only on the regular season record unfairly ignores the legitimate results of the NBA's 7 game preseason. Thus, because San Antonio's preseason record (5-2) was two games better than Los Angeles' (3-4), San Antonio claims that its total regular and preseason record is better than Los Angeles - and therefore it should be given home court advantage.
Looking at the regular season standings, we see that the Lakers had the best regular season in the western conference with 57 wins and 25 losses. The Spurs were one game behind with a regular season record of 56 wins and 26 losses. So when the two teams meet in the playoffs, the Lakers should receive the home court advantage, right? Not so fast.
The Spurs claim that the home court advantage should be based on the combined regular and preseason record - in which case the Spurs would lead by a game and would have home court advantage over the Lakers. The NBA rules committee apparently agrees this claim has some merit, because they have agreed to consider San Antonio's proposal at their upcoming meeting.
In an interview today, a representative of the Lakers expressed his astonishment:
To change the rules of the contest retroactively because one team lost is an outrageous attack on fairness, civility and sanity. It would turn all future NBA competition into complete mayhem, as teams would vie to make any number of different factors count at any point in the season.
In response to these claims, the Spurs general manager spoke passionately about the team's position:
I believe the NBA must count these games. They should count them exactly as they were played. The ideals of the Western Conference, and indeed basketball itself, demand no less.
I am here today because I believe that the decision our league faces is not just about the fate of these games and the outcome of this best of seven series. It is about whether we will uphold our most fundamental values as basketball players and Americans. It is about whether we will move forward, united, to win this conference and take back the NBA championship in June. That has to be the prize that we keep in mind.
Central to the Spurs' argument are concerns that the millions of fans who turned out to watch the preseason contests will be disenfrancised, and will feel cheated that the games they went to see will not have counted for anything.
The Spurs also note that if you count the preseason results, San Antonio has more total points than the Lakers. Although total points is not the metric used to decide home court advantage, San Antonio supporters have been advancing these statistics in support of their case.