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NBA Finals: Home doesn't mean cover

Jun 10, 2008 7:02 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist | The NBA Finals shift this week from Boston to Los Angeles, giving many of us a trip back in time to the 1980s, as the Celtics head to LA for Game 3, 4, and 5.

Many fans find this odd, as all the previous series are in a 2-2-1-1-1 format, but then the Finals shifts to a 2-3-2 format. It is odd, but there is a reason for the change:


The NBA won’t admit it, of course, but the 2-3-2 format was instituted because it’s theoretically tougher for a team to win the first two games at home then win two of the next three on the road to close out a series in 5. The league doesn’t want five games, it wants 6 or 7.

It also hasn’t worked often. Since 1994 there have only been two seven-game Finals. The 2-3-2 format, which copies the World Series, was put into effect for the 1985 NBA Finals during an earlier series when these Celtics and Lakers met. Before that, the Finals had always been 2-2-1-1-1, which worked fine.

Since 1985 under the 2-3-2 format there have more sweeps (four) than seven-game NBA Finals (just three, 1988, 1994, 2005).

Some players have even suggested that the team with home court doesn’t really have an edge for the Finals, being forced to play three road games in a row in the middle of the Finals. Not having home court appeared to help the Pistons four years ago, as they got a split in LA in the first two games, then came home and swept the middle three for the title. Two years ago Miami got back in the series, down 2-0, then sweeping the middle three at home.

Not counting this current series, over the last eight years the home team is 36-11 SU, 28-18-1 ATS in the Finals, while the favorite is 31-17 SU and 24-23-1 ATS.

Recent results show the home team stepping up and getting the money, while the favorite often wins but doesn’t always cover. In fact, from 2001-2004 the home team went just 10-10 SU/6-13-1 ATS in the Finals.

As the series shifts to LA, keep in mind the Lakers are 38-11 SU, 25-22 ATS at home, while Boston is a league best 38-11 SU, 31-15 ATS on the road. However, the Celtics are also 2-7 SU/ATS on the road in the postseason.

Defense often rules this time of the year. Boston was second in points allowed.

A year ago the Cavs and Spurs were in the Top 8 in field goal defense with the Spurs No. 1 allowing 89 PPG.