Skip to content

PBT Roundtable: Is NBA returning to 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format a good idea?

Oct 3, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7 Getty Images

Welcome to PBT’s regular roundtable on issues around the NBA, where our writers weigh in on the topic of the day.

Today: Is the NBA’s likely return to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the NBA Finals (instead of the 2-3-2 that has been in place since 1985) a good idea?

Kurt Helin: I like it, but I don’t think it’s that big a change on the court, ultimately. The rule was put in back in an era when virtually every newspaper in America was flying reporters back and forth between Boston and Los Angeles in the Finals every year and complaining. The players few commercial, everyone did, and it made some sense from a logistical standpoint to go 2-3-2. I don’t think it does anymore, they should go back to a format where the team with the better record gets Game 5 at home. That said, no team gets to say they lost because of the format. It’s not that big a deal. Not to go all coach Norman Dale, but the basket is still 10 feet from the ground and 15 feet from the free throw line. The better team wins in seven games.

D.J. Foster: Now this explains why Kurt was at Summer League just muttering “my team is on the floor” over and over again. I agree that the 2-2-1-1-1 format won’t change an awful lot from a competition standpoint, but I do think it’s more exciting and gives more of the back-and-forth vibe that basketball is all about. It might be easier for casual hometown fans to stay more involved the series as well, for whatever that’s worth. And sure, the extra travel is a little tougher on media, but it all evens out because we get free ice cream at games. So long as I can rake in the free treats and airline miles, I’ll make it.

Brett Pollakoff: While I agree that the 2-3-2 format has never been the cause of a team losing (except maybe the Lakers in the 2004 Finals to the Pistons, but that’s a longer conversation for another time), it does give the team with home court advantage an incredible leg up in a longer series. No team should have games 6 and 7 at home, because it’s too much for the visitors to overcome — the last two times the Finals went 7, the home team trailed 3-2 in the series before winning the last two games to secure the title.

Every champion wins on the road in the playoffs, so ultimately the advantage isn’t too great. But I do believe that in closeout games is where the home court advantage is truly a factor, so it’s good to see the format switched to make it more equitable for both teams.

Dan Feldman: In terms of which team wins the series, it doesn’t matter. Essentially, the NBA is changing the order the favorite and underdog get their third home game. I don’t see a reason that switch would affect the likelihood either team wins the game, and the numbers back me up.

2-3-2 Finals (1985-2013, 1953, 1949)

Underdog third home game: 15-12 (56 percent)

Favorite third home game: 13-6 (68 percent)

Other Finals (including 1956, when the teams switched cities after each game)

Underdog third home game: 15-9 (63 percent)

Favorite third home game: 21-11 (66 percent)

That’s practically the same and well within random variance. The road to determining the champion might wind a little differently, but the destination will be the same either way.

Rhett Anderson: Since statistically and historically the Finals’ format hasn’t really affected their outcomes, the main reason I see is to streamline them with the rest of the playoffs. 2-3-2 always seemed arbitrary to me anyways, similar to first-round 5-game series of the past: why not standardize it all?

With the change, all series are now 7 games and 2-2-1-1-1 and the playoffs as a whole are more cohesive. In the end it’s probably not going to affect much other than team travel schedules and player rest levels – and that’s a moot point since if you make the Finals you’ve been traveling the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule for three series already anyways.

Latest Posts
  1. Jared Dudley calls Carmelo Anthony the NBA’s most overrated player

    May 27, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT

    BASKET-GBR-USA-NBA-MILWAUKEE-NY Getty Images

    First Kobe, now Melo – Dudley goes scorched earth

  2. PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ improved defense helps them to Finals

    May 27, 2015, 8:12 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers V Atlanta Hawks - Game Four Cleveland Cavaliers V Atlanta Hawks - Game Four

    The Cavaliers are allowing 98.5 points per 100 possession in the playoffs, the best of the four teams to reach the conference Finals

  3. Report: Pelicans interview Jeff Van Gundy

    May 27, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT

    Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans Getty Images

    Will he become Anthony Davis’ next head coach?

  4. Reports: Bulls getting closer to firing Tom Thibodeau

    May 27, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

    Cleveland at Chicago, Game 6 Cleveland at Chicago, Game 6

    If they want him gone, they just have to pull the trigger on the firing. Otherwise, bring him back.

  5. PBT Extra: Despite ending, Hawks had season worth celebrating

    May 27, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks Media Day Getty Images

    The Hawks had an exciting season, they filled an arena that in past years felt like a mausoleum, they played beautiful basketball for months at a time.

  6. Bucks’ Jared Dudley: “Most guys don’t want to play with Kobe”

    May 27, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    Free agents will still come to the Lakers, but their pool may be smaller than some other teams because of Kobe.

  7. LeBron James: ‘I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season’

    May 27, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    LeBron James AP

    Plenty has changed since LeBron re-joined the Cavaliers last summer.

  8. Report: Nets to explore trade market for Mason Plumlee

    May 27, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    The offers won’t be as strong as they were in December.

  9. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak: ‘Anywhere from 4-8 players could be in consideration’ for No. 2 pick in NBA Draft

    May 27, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak AP

    Eight seems like too many, but Kupchak has proven that he knows what he’s doing.

Featured video

Despite ending, Hawks had season to remember
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. S. Curry (7690)
  2. K. Irving (7039)
  3. K. Love (6339)
  4. L. James (5229)
  5. D. Howard (5038)
  1. D. Carroll (4453)
  2. K. Korver (4406)
  3. K. Bryant (4066)
  4. K. Durant (3857)
  5. A. Varejao (3826)