Format fuss much ado about nothing
Originally Published: June 9, 2009By John Hollinger | ESPN.com
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesDown 2-0, Dwight Howard's Magic have the tough task of trying to sweep their three home games.ORLANDO, Fla. -- Welcome to the middle three games of the NBA Finals, when every year the conversation turns to the 2-3-2 home-court format the league uses for the Finals rather than the 2-2-1-1-1 style used for all other playoff rounds. There are darned good reasons for doing it this way, as anyone who just slogged his way on the six-hour plane ride from Los Angeles to Orlando (as I did) can attest. But people have repeatedly asked me whether one team or the other derives some kind of advantage from the format. The claim you'll often hear is that it's very hard for the team hosting the middle three games to win all three consecutively, and that somehow, doing so would be easier if a road game were in the middle. Borrowing a line from the movie "Meatballs," my response is this: "It just doesn't matter." To many NBA analysts, the idea that one team or the other gains an advantage from the 2-3-2 format is poppycock. But enough people appear to have accepted this idea as truth that I thought a more detailed examination was in order. With the help of ace researchers Alok Pattani, Scott Randall and Peter Newmann from ESPN's Stats & Information group, I have a trove of data on best-of-seven Finals series to underscore my point.