For Home Court, Sweet Home Court, Be Grateful to Grant

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The home team has won every game in what has become the first seven-game series of the 2004 playoffs: the first round matchup between the fourth-seeded Miami Heat and the fifth-seeded New Orleans Hornets. What a difference a win makes. If Miami had lost to New Orleans back on November 25, 2003, instead of winning by four points to notch their fourth win of the season, the Hornets would have had home court advantage in this series.

Bear in mind that with 1:21 left to play in that fateful game, Miami was only up two points. But defense, rebounding, and free throws, all by Brian Grant, secured the victory. In that final 80 seconds of action, Grant recorded a huge block, a key rebound, and two clutch foul shots. He also committed a non-shooting foul with the Heat under the limit that forced the Hornets to reset their offense.

In other words, the Heat are only here because of Brian Grant.

That's right: the team's second-highest paid player just barely behind Eddie Jones, thecoup de graceon many an overpaid list, may be the key to Miami's victory. Of the six games these two teams have played in the series so far, the home court advantage couldn't be clearer. In a 2-2-1-1-1 format, the victories for Miami have so far been 2-0-1-0-?, with the question mark being tonight's home game. New Orleans has won all of its home games as well.

It is thanks to Grant that Miami even has home court advantage. Oh, they'd still be playing the Hornets, even if they had lost that one game early in the season, but they wouldn't be playing the deciding seventh game at home.

Grant is also one of only three Heat players with Game 7 experience, the other two being Rafer Alston and Samaki Walker. Grant was a Trail Blazer back in 2000 when they fell to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. He went scoreless and grabbed just two rebounds and handed out one assist in what was clearly a tough game for him against Shaq.

The good news is: there is no Shaq on Charlotte. Grant will likely be playing the game of his life in just a few short hours.

The Heat are blessed in having incredibly motivated players each with personal reasons to eke out a victory. Grant we've discussed. Lamar Odom is looking to cap off his best season as a pro to date. Eddie Jones is looking to prove to naysayers that he has heart and is worth being the most expensive Miami player. Dwyane Wade is looking to establish himself as the lone star rookie to get into the second round. Stan Van Gundy is looking to secure his future with the Heat by proving he was the right choice, and not just the default choice, when Pat Riley stepped down as coach.

Motivation is one thing.

The game is tonight.

The Heat's playoff run continues tonight, Tuesday, May 4th, at 7:00 p.m. EDT/6:00 p.m. CDT on ESPN and WBFS. The complete playoff schedule is as follows:
1 - New Orleans (79) @ MIAMI (81)
2 - New Orleans (63) @ MIAMI (93)
3 - Miami (71) @ NEW ORLEANS (77)
4 - Miami (85) @ NEW ORLEANS (96)
5 - New Orleans (83) @ MIAMI (87)
6 - Miami (83) @ NEW ORLEANS (89)
7 - New Orleans @ Miami, Tuesday May 4 - 7:00 p.m. EDT/6:00 p.m. CDT on TNT

The Heat are asking fans to wear black and to arrive early.

In NBA history, the team with home court advantage has won its Game 7 on 70 of 85 occasions.

Nothing to report.


The Miami Heraldwrites: You should have seen laughing Steve Smith as the last moments of Sunday's game ticked away, standing in front of his Hornets bench while sign-language taunting the Heat bench amid all this joyful New Orleans noise. Smith kept holding up seven fingers, representing Game 7. And he kept pointing to Miami's Eddie Jones, who was still running around on the court. Over and over, Smith pointed to his heart, then Jones, then shook his head no, no, no. Jones doesn't have the heart for a Game 7, Smith was saying, out there for everyone to see. And he just couldn't stop laughing about it.

Israel Gutierrez ofThe Miami Herald writes: Keith Askins knows the game.The assistant coach has played in playoff-deciding contests as a member of the Miami Heat, and he is well aware of the pressure, the nerves, the career-building shots, the career-tarnishing mistakes, the memorable performances, the exhilaration of winning and the devastation of losing. In short, Askins understands the stakes. ''This is like no-limit Texas hold 'em right here,'' Askins said. ``Ante up.''

Stephen F. Holder ofThe Miami Herald writes: In tonight's deciding game, trash-talking could be raised to a new level, and neither team wants to play nice... Nothing witnessed to date indicates the Heat or Hornets are prepared to play a nice, cordial game of basketball. Tonight's Game 7 is going to be ugly and physical and ferocious, and no matter how hard the Hornets tried to play nice Monday, the not-so-nice side of this series was nonetheless revealed.

Israel Gutierrez ofThe Miami Herald writes: Stan Van Gundy has seen his players take hits from Hornets players throughout this best-of-7 series, and now he's doing what his players aren't allowed to do: fighting back.The Heat coach said the physical play in the series that has resulted in near scuffles has been ''basically one-sided,'' adding that the Hornets have ``cheap players.'' Van Gundy said he expects it to continue in tonight's Game 7.

Barry Jackson ofThe Miami Heraldwrites: The Heat's Lamar Odom vows to 'come away victorious' in tonight's Game 7 against the Hornets.

Ira Winderman ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: From that first home game, on Halloween, as the Heat unmasked its future, through so many other pregame introductions on the overhead scoreboard at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat has been asking the question through the verse of rapper Eminem: Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted, one moment Would you capture it, or just let it slip?Through its own players mouthing the lyrics of Lose Yourself in that game-opening video, through six months now, the opportunity to provide an answer is at hand.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinelcites The Miami Heat in writing: Only three players on the Heat's playoff roster have played a Game 7 of the NBA playoffs: Rafer Alston, Brian Grant, and Samaki Walker.

Ethan J. Skolnick ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: In the summer of 2000, Pat Riley arrived at "the moment of truth," when Eddie Jones seemed as if he might escape to Chicago. So Riley, already spurned by Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, sweetened the deal with the Hornets, adding P.J. Brown to Jamal Mashburn to net Jones and Anthony Mason in a franchise-shifting sign-and-trade.He filled Brown's void by landing Portland power forward Brian Grant in a three-way swap. He committed more than $170 million to Jones and Grant for the next seven years.

Dave Hyde ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes: This is the night that made Jamal Mashburn an eternal choker, Allan Houston a forever nemesis and has haunted this Heat franchise for years.This is the night that made Alonzo Mourning cry, sent Pat Riley into silence and caused Tim Hardaway to utter in despair, "I'm going home, have me a bottle of Grand Marnier and chill out." This is the night of all sports nights. Game 7.