NBA Weighs Finals Switch To 2-2-1-1-1

After 29 years of staging its championship round in a 2-3-2 format of home/road games, the NBA is considering a return to the 2-2-1-1-1 system used for The Finals prior to 1985 and still used for all earlier playoff rounds.

The league’s competition committee voted to recommend the switch to the Board of Governors, which is expected to approve the move at its meetings Oct. 22-23. Still to be determined: whether the change would take effect for The Finals this June or wait till 2015. The committee’s recommendation was first reported by the Boston Herald Sunday.

“The idea was raised at the competition committee and was well-received,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Sunday, “and the committee ultimately unanimously voted to recommend the change in format.”

The 2-3-2 format was adopted for the championship round in 1985, after three consecutive Finals – and nine in a span of 10 years – had played across three time zones. Six of those nine had gone at least to Game 6, requiring additional coast-to-coast travel at a time when even the teams flew commercially.

A relatively new commissioner (David Stern began his term on Feb. 1, 1984) was aware of the demands on demands on players, coaches and staff. Stern also was keen to marketing issues, and the increased expense to newspapers and other traditional media in booking extra flights. Now NBA teams travel via charter flights. Many traditional news outlets no longer cover The Finals, a nod to their own industry’s economic woes rather than travel costs.

Also, the 2-3-2 format has its own issues. First, it veers dramatically from the staging of home/road games used in the earlier rounds. Second, the higher-seeded team, which begins The Finals at home, has what some have considered a homecourt disadvantage through five games.

Through the years, many have debated the psychological edges and pressures facing both clubs. Is it tougher for the higher-seeded team to know that, if it loses Game 1 or 2, the series might not return to its city? Or does the lower-seeded team face a greater burden at home, considering how difficult it is to beat a Finals opponent three straight times?

A reversion to 2-2-1-1-1 at least would make the format consistent with the earlier rounds, seemingly a more legitimate way to determine a champion. For the record, since 1985 the teams with Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home (if needed) have won 21 of the 29 Finals (.724) in the 2-3-2 format. In the 38 NBA/BAA championships through 1984 (including some played with alternating home games or even 2-3-2 in the 1950s), the higher-seeded teams went 26-12 (.684).


  1. Chicago! says:

    Man true championship teams win because they are championship teams! Not because of homecourt advantage. Just look at the 1995 Houston Rockets…

  2. juggernaut584 says:

    I agree with the format change. This will open the door for more 7 game series if the lower seeded team gets game 6 in their building. How about a return to 5 game series in the 1st round? More upsets, and more pressure on the higher seeded teams to beat the supposedly inferior lower seeded teams.

  3. SYDALE says:

    How about 2-2-1-2… Where the team without Homecourt advantage gets the first 2 home games… LOL

    That would be wild…

  4. justsayin says:

    Not a surprise; the NBA ignores traveling these days anyway.

  5. Oldhawk says:

    Yes change the format, the highter seed team will always have an advantage starting two games at home then playing three away, all they have to do is win one of the three and then go home and take care of business. And fatigue shouldn’t be a factor, and who cares its the last seven games of the season anyway.

  6. Cam says:

    I think 2-3-2 is better than 2-2-1-1-1 because it reduces the home court advantage a little bit (although it seems the statistics may not back that up). This is the match up of the best teams in the league, you want it to come down to skill and will before it comes down to home court advantage.

  7. artifex says:

    Well, statistically, on the first glance (68 to 72%) doesn’t seem that there is a significant change in any direction. Would be interesting, if some numbers juggler (Mr Schuhmann?) has a more detailed look, detailing the individual situations (the 22111 or 232 certainly didn’t matter for the 95 Rockets…).
    I can’t say how stressful it’s for players, would be good to hear their opinion too.
    From an ecological view the 232 seems the better solution. Though probably many will argue that, given the huge number of games per season, this wouldn’t matter, but it could be one small contribution…

  8. ism says:

    “For the record, since 1985 the teams with Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home (if needed) have won 21 of the 29 Finals (.724) in the 2-3-2 format. In the 38 NBA/BAA championships through 1984 (including some played with alternating home games or even 2-3-2 in the 1950s), the higher-seeded teams went 26-12 (.684).”

    So, this basically says that there seems to be no real difference as far as the outcome of the series is concerned. 2-2-1-1-1 would also mean a larger carbon footprint, but this is marginal compared to what the league does anyway. So…for entertainment purposes, I am also leaning towards the 2-2-1-1-1 format although I do not see such big a difference.

  9. Mark says:

    How about having a new format of 3 – 2 – 2 ? That would give the home team an advantage through 5 games and would enable players not to be as fatigued as they are playing 2 – 2 – 1 – 1 ?

  10. PLEASE says:

    And top 16 teams should compete on playoffs, regardless of the conference.

    • chigchig says:

      Then conferences are meaningless… how do you have 10 teams from the west and 6 teams form the east in a playoff setting, just have the east play 1 less round or have possibly 2 west teams in the finals?

  11. J says:

    they should put it at 2-2-1-1-1

    how about 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah lol

  12. user123213 says:

    2-3-2 makes sense to reduce travel fatigue – I don’t want to see two jet-lagged teams in games 6 & 7. And psychological advantage? True NBA champions win no matter how much pressure there is…

    • Rav says:

      A 4-hour time difference doesn’t induce very much jet lag at all; in any case, the players would have enough rest time to sleep it off.

  13. slider821 says:

    too much traveling, nowadays with private jets and days off between games, i don’t think travel is an issue. i wonder if there would be 2 days or 1 day between each of the 1-1-1 last 3 games?

  14. TrueNBAFan says:

    Yes revert it to the old 2-2-1-1-1 format, it’s best that way and it offers a little more suspense to the game.