Tuck: 2-3-2 NBA Finals Format Fails

I do not like the 2-3-2 playoff format.  Not one bit.  I think it gives too big of an advantage to the team with home-court advantage in the series.

Since the NBA adopted the 2-3-2 format in the 1984-85 season:

– The team with home court is 20-7 in the Finals.

– The home team swept their three middle home games just twice.  The 2004 Pistons and the 2006 Heat.  That’s twice in 27 years.  Detroit was tied 1-1 and finished the Lakers off at home.  The Heat were down 2-0, and rallied with three straight home wins and a game 6 road win for the title.

-The home team lost all three middle home games three times.  The 1990 Blazers, 1991 Lakers, and 2001 76ers.  More often the road team won 3 straight in the middle than the home team.  All three pulled last second wins (Portland and Philly won in OT), before being dominated back home.

– No NBA Finals has featured a series where the home team won every game.

– When the series was tied 1-1 after two games, the winner of game 3 is 11-1 in Finals history.  Last year the Mavericks broke the unbeaten mark by losing game 3 at home, but then winning three straight following the loss to capture the title.


I know I gave you a bunch to read there, but go up and read the first one again.  Team with home court is 20-7 in the NBA Finals.  74% is an awfully high rate of success when supposedly matching up the two best teams in the league.

LeBron James had no comment last night when asked about the format, only saying at this level that everyone can win on the road.  Which is true, and why it is so hard to win 3 straight games, even if they are at home.

The 2-3-2 set-up has produced just 2 teams in 27 years that were able to hold serve at home.  You could technically say three teams if you count the 1995 Houston Rockets that went 2-0 at home.  They were the only team without home-court advantage to sweep a series under this format.  Sorry Magic fans.

But even they won two road games.  So every champion minus said two has had to win not one, but two road games in the Finals to capture the title.

I think that is too much to ask, considering two things: 1. Every other round is played under a 2-2-1-1-1 format, and 2. the stakes are at the highest in the Finals to put “the second best team” at a disadvantage greater than what is normal.

Clearly, the NBA doesn’t care.  They’ve been operating with this format for almost three decades.  I understand why.  It’s easier.  Easier for the mass media, growing each and every year, to travel back and forth just twice in a series lasting over 5 games.  It’s also easier on fans wanting to travel.  And of course the teams avoid the extra trip or two.  That is a lot of time and money saved.

As much as I challenge the fairness of this format, it seems surprising the NBA hasn’t changed to a 2-3-2 format for every round for all the reasons they’d give for it making sense in the Finals.

The 2-3-2 format is why I always watch so closely the records of the top teams in both conferences.  The advantage to be had in the Finals is the greatest you can get.