Parity arrives in NBA playoffs

Parity has struck the NBA playoffs, where the conference semifinals are fit to be tied.

The four series are all knotted at one game apiece — the first time that’s happened in the second round of the NBA playoffs since the league went to its current format more than a quarter-century ago. For favorites like Miami, New York, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, home-court advantage has disappeared, and now it’s the underdogs who control their own fates by taking care of business at home.

A wild weekend is ahead.

The Heat, Knicks, Spurs and Thunder are four of the league’s top five winningest road teams this season. That probably isn’t being received as great news for Chicago, Indiana, Golden State and Memphis, the lower-seeded clubs who will be hosting pivotal Game 3s when playoff action resumes Friday and Saturday.

“Pretty cool. The NBA’s loving it,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “When it comes to the playoffs, I always continue to say no matter how many games you win or lose in the regular season, once you get to the playoffs, everybody’s record is 0-0. So I think it’s great. I think it’s great for our fans, I think it’s great for the competition that every series is tied 1-1.”

After a first round with only two sweeps — by Miami and San Antonio, the top seeds in the Eastern and Western conferences — the tone for the second round was set pretty quickly around the league. Miami lost Game 1 at home to a wounded and weary team from Chicago. San Antonio needed a huge comeback to beat Golden State in Game 1 of their series, then the Warriors came back and took Game 2.

The Knicks lost Game 1 to Indiana before evening up their matchup, and the Thunder are likely feeling lucky that they’re not in an 0-2 hole after Memphis had plenty of chances to take the opening game of their series.

“When you get this deep into the playoffs, they’re all good teams. They’re all very good teams more than capable of winning at home or on the road,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. “So I’m not surprised at all. ... They’ve all been great games.”

Big fourth-quarter comebacks, first by Oklahoma City and then by Memphis, decided the outcomes of the first two games, where the cumulative score right now is Grizzlies 190, Thunder 186. The first two Spurs-Warriors games were pure theater, with San Antonio winning a double-overtime thriller in Game 1 after rallying from 16 points down late in regulation.

Road teams took Game 1s in the East semifinals, with Indiana and Chicago both winning by seven. And the home teams imposed their wills in Game 2 — New York using a huge late run to beat the Pacers by 26 and the Heat outscoring the Bulls by a 62-20 margin over a 19-minute stretch on the way to evening that matchup with a 115-78 romp.

“Anybody can beat you on a given night, and playoff basketball is no different,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “Everybody at this particular time is hungry even more. Nobody wants to go home, so it becomes crazy basketball.”

The Heat entered the playoffs as the overwhelming favorites to win their second straight title, and they remain that way in the eyes of oddsmakers even though they’ll need to win one game in Chicago to reclaim the home-court advantage.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s eyes widened a bit Thursday when told that no second round in the NBA playoffs had ever opened this way.

“Is that right? First time ever? Really? Wow,” he said. “Makes for great theater. I know I’m enjoying the other games, probably like other fans are enjoying ours. It shows how much parity there is and how little margin for error with the teams that are left. ... We had always felt there was up to six or seven legitimate, title-contending teams.”

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