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:
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.
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!