The 2019-20 NBA season was restarted in a bubble in Orlando in July after it was shutdown due to COVID-19 in March. After the teams invited back played a few games, the playoffs started with the usual best-of-7 series. However, since all games are played at the bubble, there's no traveling and so no home court advantage for the higher seed teams either. But teams are still marked as the home and away teams.

Aside from higher seed teams playing teams with worse records, are there any advantage for the higher seeds playing in neutral site in the bubble? In regular situations, the home team is guaranteed to play at least as many games or 1 more game at home as the lower seed. With the fans rallying for the home teams, and players being more familiar with their surroundings at home court, the home teams do better as they average slightly less turnovers, more points, less fouls, and sometimes even get more favorable calls from the referees.

The NHL is also having bubble playoffs happening in Toronto and Edmonton at the same time as the NBA. These hockey games are too played with no fans on neutral ice. However, hockey has built in advantage for the home team where they get the last change. That is during stoppages when both teams can substitute players, the home team gets to substitute after the visiting team. So the home team has an advantage as they get to change players based on the away team's personnel on ice. Hence these neutral ice NHL games preserve some advantage for the higher seeds.

So has the NBA introduced any added advantage for the home teams in the bubble playoffs? Or does NBA basketball already have built in advantage for the home team like we see in hockey?

P.S. Personally I think an extra 8th timeout for the home teams would've been a touch of interesting marginal advantage.

1 Answer 1


As far as I can tell, not really. They are making some attempt to replicate bits of the home court experience as far as audio/visual cues go; see this article for example:

The "home" team also gets its own signage, pregame hype videos, warm-up music and in-game sound effects, to simulate the feel of its own arena. The public address announcer even skews his enthusiasm toward the designated home team.

But, that doesn't seem to make much of a difference:

"There's no difference between a home and a road game," Rockets star James Harden says of the bubble. "The atmosphere is what it is."

There is technically one road team advantage that may have persisted: the right to choose which direction the team shoots first. It's unclear if that offers any advantage, of course.

  • Is there any difference in the prerecorded noise - like is it louder after the home team scores? Aug 26, 2020 at 15:39
  • All I've seen is the comment about the PA announcer; but I do think it's likely that the home team gets the cheers in the prerecorded noise. Unfortunately can't test that tonight (for good reason!)
    – Joe
    Aug 26, 2020 at 21:21
  • 1
    I watched the end of Game 6 between Toronto and Boston tonight (with Boston being the "home" team), and heard the fake "Defense! Defense!" chants while Toronto had the ball. But it's not clear to me if the fake noise is only on the broadcast or if the players can hear it too. There seemed to be several audio glitches during the broadcast in which I could hear the announcers speaking with no background noise at all, so maybe the players don't hear the fake noise. Sep 10, 2020 at 2:00

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