After nearly 30 years of the NBA’s home-court advantage winner playing the championship round in a two home games, three away games, two home games format, the league has changed to a 2-2-1-1-1 format.
The change, decided in a unanimous vote on Oct. 23 by the league’s owners, will be effective for the 2014 Finals and brings the championship into line with the format of the other rounds of the NBA playoffs. An extra day off will also be added between Games 6 and 7.
“There certainly was a perception…it was unfair to the team that had the better record, that it was then playing the pivotal Game 5 on the road,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN. “So this obviously moves that game back to giving home-court advantage to the team with the better record if it’s a 2-2 series.”
In June’s Finals, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat faced that exact situation. Instead of the fifth game being held in Miami, the game was held in San Antonio, who won and put the Heat on the brink of elimination. The Heat rallied, winning Games 6 and 7 to claim the title.
In 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder had home-court advantage but fell to Miami in five games. The prior year, the Heat held home-court advantage but lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.
“I like the new format,” ESPN Production Assistant Brian Waters told the AFRO. “If this change would have happened last year, the Spurs would have won the NBA Finals.”
“There's been a sense among our teams that in a 2-2 series, it’s not fair for a team with the better record to be away [for the fifth game],” commissioner David Stern said during a league's board of governors annual preseason meeting. “It’s not fair for the better team in terms of record to spend as many as eight days away from home.”
This season marks Stern’s last year as the NBA’s commissioner after 30 years of service. He announced his retirement in October 2012.
Stern changed the Finals format in 1985, when he took over as commissioner for then-Boston Celtics president Red Auerbach, who complained about the demands of travel in the 2-1-1-1 format following several Finals between his team and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Stern will hand over his duties to Silver on Feb. 1, exactly 30 years after he was named NBA commissioner in 1984.