Beckenridge/Devon O’Neil: Home hardwood sweeter than ever in playoffs | SkyHiNews.com

Beckenridge/Devon O’Neil: Home hardwood sweeter than ever in playoffs

The courts are the same length and width, and the baskets are the same height. But in this year’s four second-round NBA playoff series, we’ve seen a surprisingly comprehensive home-court dominance.

Going into Monday night’s Celtics-Cavs Game 4, 14 of 15 games had been won by the home team, with the only exception being Detroit’s one-point win over Orlando in Game 4, which gave the Pistons a 3-1 series edge.

What gives, you ask? Hard to tell, but the trend is probably the best illustration of how evenly matched this year’s playoff participants are, given that home-court advantage is able to make such a difference. The most glaring example is the Spurs-Hornets matchup, in which the Hornets won the first two at home by 19 and 18 points, then the Spurs won the next two by 11 and 20.

This remains the best NBA playoffs I can remember, and with the four series entering their later stages, you have to believe it’s only going to get better. …

Sergio Garcia’s win in The Players Championship on Sunday was most significant because Garcia has made a career out of being the Can’t Miss Kid Who Keeps Missing. It was his first PGA win in three years, for starters, and although it wasn’t a major, it was the next best thing.

Most impressive of all, however, was that by beating Paul Goydos (the Tour’s first $1 million runner-up) in a playoff, Garcia overcame a foe who needed 18 fewer putts than he in the 72 holes of regulation, an astounding disparity given their finish places. …

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Not that Joel Quenneville is a bad coach, or that the Avs were better than their second-round exit, but sometimes you just need a fresh approach. In Colorado’s case, with 13 unrestricted free agents, “fresh” might end up being a vastly underequipped adjective to describe the club we’ll see on the ice next fall. …

On a lighter note, do yourself a favor. Go to YouTube.com and type “Hitler Canucks” in the search box. A genius with a bunch of time on his hands has created the most hilarious sports satire I’ve seen in a long time, to spoof Vancouver’s early playoff exit. Make sure the sound is on. …

You have to think NHL executives are a little giddy right now, with the Penguins up 2-0 on the Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals ” just two wins away from playing for the Stanley Cup on the sport’s greatest stage.

Why might NHL execs be giddy? Because the sport needs a boost in interest, and having two of its three biggest stars ” Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby (in that order right now) ” playing for the Cup would deliver just that. …

Stat of the Week: Rafael Nadal is 103-2 on clay since April 2005. One of those losses came to arguably the greatest player in tennis history, Roger Federer, and the other came last week, when Nadal played with a wicked blister on his foot. …

The biggest surprise in major league baseball this year has to be the Marlins, who, with the league’s tiniest payroll ($21 million), held the game’s best record (23-14) as of Monday afternoon. Even better news for them is they signed 6-foot-3, 200-pound shortstop Hanley Ramirez, 24, arguably the top young player in baseball, to a steal of an extension, even though it doesn’t sound like one: $70 million over six years. …

In helping his Boulder-based Slipstream-Chipotle team win the opening team time trial stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, Illinois native Christian Vande Velde became the first U.S. rider in 20 years to wear the Giro’s leader’s jersey. He lost it the next day, but still. …

Call it what you may ” rebuilding, restructuring, reloading ” but the U.S. Ski Team has taken a noticeably different approach in how it doles out funding for the upcoming season. Last year, the squad included 15 “A” team athletes and 14 “B” teamers ” the two groups that receive the most money.

This year, as announced last week, USSA officials have cut those numbers by 30 percent, down to 10 and 10, with three fewer nominated to the “C” and Development teams as well. …

In parting, a Russian man named Denis Nizhegorodov set a new world record in the 50K race walk Sunday, covering the 31.25-mile distance in 3 hours, 34 minutes.

Forget the fact that his time was faster than many people run a marathon, a distance 5 miles shorter. What’s confounding me is that come 2012, race walking will still be an Olympic sport, and baseball won’t be.

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at devononeil@hotmail.com.

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