The Philadelphia 76ers found it very difficult to win in Miami in their two visits there this season. Of course, Sixers fans like myself know it was hard for them to beat the Miami Heat anywhere this season - and last year as well. But the vast majority of NBA teams find it hard to win in the Heat's American Airlines Arena anyway - and now if the Oklahoma City Thunder can't do it once in the NBA Finals, they will never play at their own intimidating arena again this year.
Yet the odds are good that the Thunder will win at least once in Miami, even if one of those times isn't in Game 3 on June 17. But the Thunder would probably have to win twice on the road to be the NBA Finals favorites again. However, if Oklahoma City has a pipe dream of winning all three games on the road, it should probably be dismissed - although the 2001 Sixers can attest that it can happen.
Those Sixers were the last squad to drop Games 3, 4 and 5 at home in the NBA Finals. Yet they had a built in excuse, since they were playing the all-powerful 2001 Los Angeles Lakers and could no longer hang around with them. They came close to beating the Lakers and stealing a 2-1 series lead in Game 3, but after that deflating loss, the Sixers never threatened them again.
That Philadelphia team had finally reached its peak and didn't have nearly enough to stand up to Los Angeles's superstars for long. However, the 2012 NBA Finals have an equal amount of superstars for both the Thunder and Heat. As such, it would defy logic if the Heat suddenly went on a three-game home losing streak, especially with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in their corner - and especially after their Game 2 win in Oklahoma City on June 14.
The Thunder are best known for being a hot home team instead of a hot road team anyway. Since they just lost at home for the first time in this postseason, perfection in Miami should be even more out of reach. Yet before the 2001 Lakers did it, the last team to sweep the middle of the NBA Finals on the road was the 1991 Chicago Bulls - who began their dynasty by sweeping Magic Johnson's last Lakers team in Los Angeles.
If Michael Jordan's Bulls could start their run by overwhelming champions like the Magic-era Lakers, maybe the Thunder could start a dynasty of their own by overwhelming the Heat in Miami. Then again, that 1991 Lakers club was at the end of their dynasty while this year's Heat are also trying to start one of their own.
If anything, the Heat would be more favored to become the first home team to sweep Games 3, 4 and 5 since the 2004 Detroit Pistons - against none other than the Lakers. But even if Miami doesn't totally collapse at home instead, like Philadelphia did in 2001, Oklahoma City would settle for one win there - despite really needing two.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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