How a change in format affects the NBA Finals

larry-o'brien-trophy

If you look closely, you just might see Phil Jackson’s head.

 

Earlier this week it was reported that the NBA’s competition committee has voted in favour of switching the NBA Finals from a 2-3-2 format to the 2-2-1-1-1 format that is used throughout the rest of the playoffs. Will this benefit the higher seed or the lower seed?

Almost three years ago, Arturo Galletti covered this very topic. His findings are below:

Win Probability 2-3-2

For the home team, the most likely outcome of a 2-3-2 series is winning in six games (if the home team is better) or losing in five games (if the away team is better); if the teams are evenly matched, the most likely outcome is the home team in seven games.

Win Probability 2-2-1-1-1

For the higher seed, the most likely outcome of a 2-2-1-1-1 series is winning in five games (if the home team is better) or losing in six games (if the away team is better); if the teams are evenly matched, the most likely outcome is the home team in seven games.

Here are the big takeaways summarized in a table:

Stronger team Most likely outcome for home team
2-3-2 format 2-2-1-1-1 format
Home team Win in 6 games Win in 5 games
Neither Win in 7 games Win in 7 games
Away team Lose in 5 games Lose in 6 games

The change from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1 means that we’ll see a shorter Finals when the home team is the stronger team and a longer Finals when the away team is the better team, but overall it doesn’t make either team more likely to win.

And remember, the team that wins isn’t necessarily the better team!

- Devin

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