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Thursday, June 15, 2006

2-3-2 Finals Format Is Weak

I’ve never liked the 2-3-2 set-up of the NBA Finals, and tonight will provide a perfect example of why. If the Miami Heat win, they tie the series after falling 0-2 in Dallas against the Mavericks. Normally, they’d be headed to Dallas and a mental breather – everyone’s defended home court, and, yes, they still need to steal a game in Dallas. But not necessarily Game 5. They could lose Game 5, yet be headed home to try to force a Game 7.

In the 2-3-2 scenario, the road team is put in the extremely difficult position of winning three straight home games just to defend home court. Either team would be at least put to a test to beat the woeful Portland Trailblazers three straight. Even if you scoff at that, there’s no way to suggest it’s fair to ask one of the two supposedly best teams in the league to beat the other three straight just to defend home court.

The worst part, from what I understand, is that this is done to accodomate the huge media presence by cutting down on travel. It suggests that the NBA is not only a business, which is obvious, but a business that merely uses competition as its lure instead of making fair competition the priority.

I’ll give that I may be making too much of this. (Hey, it’s June, the dead zone of Philly Sports.) But stats tell another story: the 2004 Detroit Pistons became the ONLY team since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in 1984-85 to win all three middle games at home. In fact last year might offer the most damning evidence: The home team won the first four games by wide margins, then the San Antonio Spurs took a one-point overtime win over Detroit. The Pistons took Game 6, losing the series in Game 7.

If you believe in the home-court advantage at all, and I’ve never heard anyone argue against it, there’s no denying 2-3-2 hurts the road team. The mentality is always to “steal a road game, and defend the home court.” It’s so difficult to win three straight in the Finals, the mentality now must be “steal two road games” because you’re going to lose at least one at home.

It was changed to allow businesses – including the NBA, I’m sure – to save money. It should be changed back to allow competition to be the priority.

Don’t hold your breath.

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