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Each conference round in the NBA playoffs is a best-of-seven series played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format...or the team with home-court advantage hosts games 1, 2, 5, and 7 while their opponent hosts games 3, 4, and 6.

However, the NBA Finals is a best-of-seven series is played in a 2-3-2 format...or the team with home-court advantage hosts games 1, 2, 6, and 7 while their opponent hosts games 3, 4, and 5.

What is the motivation behind using the 2-3-2 series format for the NBA Finals? Do factors of home-court advantage change in a 2-3-2 series format vs. a 2-2-1-1-1 series format?

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2 Answers 2

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This is basically just a cost reduction choice.

You save each team two charter flights by playing a three game set in the middle, so instead of having to travel four times in the series there are only two travel dates.

There is no real change in the home court advantage scenario.

A sweep still requires either team to win two at home and two on the road. A 5 game victory does require the team with home court to win two on the road (when it would only require one road victory). However, a team that wins both of its first two home games is still guaranteed a third home game before being eliminated regardless of whether they have home court advantage.

The only scenario that is different is a win in 5 games. In the normal playoff format the home team gets 3 games a home out of the first five and the road team gets two. In the 2-3-2 case the road team gets three of the first five at home. This seems to give the road team a slight advantage if they manage to steal one of the first two games. However, this same advantage is also present in the other format, it just doesn't occur until game 6.

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I believe the NFL has something similar for games played during the season...something along the lines of not having more than one game per season where a team has to travel from one coast to another to reduce cost and the number of long flights. –  edmastermind29 Jun 10 '13 at 19:56
    
@edmastermind29 at the risk of being completely off topic, NFL schedules in the current 32 team / 2 conference / 8 division format are basically deterministic and nothing about them is predicated off of the distances traveled. For instance, the AFC South teams this year play all teams from the AFC West and NFC West, which means exactly 4 trips to "western" teams (excluding the Jaguars/SF game in London this year). See football.about.com/cs/football101/a/bl_schedproced.htm for a simplistic summary. –  whaley Jun 17 '13 at 16:03
    
@whaley This is what I was referring to: forums.chargers.com/showthread.php?t=92322 –  edmastermind29 Jun 18 '13 at 13:07
    
It seems strange that they use the "expensive" option for the all the conference rounds but then apply a cost saving schedule for the finals. –  Peter Eisentraut Jun 18 '13 at 14:33
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@PeterEisentraut Actually, it makes sense. The conference rounds have more games (even if both conference finals end in a sweep, that's eight games - and is not subject to the difference in format due to the low amount of games played - vs. a full seven-game NBA Finals). Thus, more revenue. I'm willing to bet that there is more total revenue during conference rounds than NBA finals (although the NBA finals itself may yield more than an individual conference round series) simply because there are more games being played. –  edmastermind29 Apr 29 at 13:33

Jan Hubbard tells a very interesting story about the series that helped change the format to 2-3-2,

It all began on 1984 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.

That’s how long it took – 11 days — to play four games. The NBA was only three years removed from having the Finals on tape delay during primetime, so the reality was that if league executives wanted their games to be televised live, they would play exactly when CBS told them to play. And CBS did not want a game in prime time during the crucial “sweeps” period when ratings were determined and advertising rates were set because unlike now, when even “low-rated” games are the most watched on TV, those games were no contest to primetime schedules.

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