NBA alters Finals format to 2-2-1-1-1
The change comes about as NBA owners unanimously voted Wednesday to scrap a format for the championship round that featured three home consecutive games for the lower-seeded team in the middle of the series.
Referred to as the 2-3-2 scenario, the higher seed opened with two home games, then played three straight on the road, before closing with two more home games. It was conducive to travel, especially when teams had to span several time zones, and was a favorite of outgoing commissioner David Stern.
In the new format, though there will be more travel inconveniences, the higher seed will host the first two games, before hitting the road for two games. At that point — Game 5 — the teams will alternate home games, ending with a potential Game 7 on the higher-seeded team's floor. This format, used in the other playoff rounds, is known as the 2-2-1-1-1.
The 2-3-2 was instituted in 1985, Stern's first full year in charge, in part to ease the amount of cross-country travel with the Celtics and Lakers frequently meeting for the championship. But critics felt it gave an edge to the lower-seeded team.
"There certainly was a perception ... it was unfair to the team that had the better record, that it was then playing the pivotal Game 5 on the road. So this obviously moves that game back to giving home-court advantage to the team with the better record if it's a 2-2 series," Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said.
The vote came during Stern's final preseason meeting with his board of governors. Owners also voted to add an extra day between Games 6 and 7.
The league's competition committee had recommended the change last month back to 2-2-1-1-1, which was used in all but one finals from 1957 to 1984.
The change to the 2-3-2 format was one of the earliest made by Stern, who has often said he was acting on advice — or complaints — about the travel from former Celtics boss Red Auerbach. But with commercial flights long since replaced by charters, teams didn't have the same difficulties now with the number of trips.
Instead, the ones who had the higher seed found it more inconvenient, Stern said, to be on the road for as many as eight days in a row when the opponent hosted the middle three games.
Silver, who will become commissioner after Stern retires Feb. 1, is a proponent of the 2-2-1-1-1 format, though he said Stern and other league executives all thought it was time for the change.
"It reached a crescendo where basketball people thought it was important and the business people stood down and said it was no longer necessary for the convenience of transportation or the media," Silver said.
Beyond the re-election of Spurs owner Peter Holt as chairman, there was little other business for the owners, who toasted Stern during dinner Tuesday night. Stern said there was a video tribute voiced by Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, along with "some speechifying" and "a series of totally embarrassing photos of me over the last 36 years."
"I got the opportunity to thank my colleagues at the NBA for their incredible work and saying how pleased I was that the league was in such good hands under those colleagues and Adam's stewardship," Stern said.
The owners were also presented with a Stern bobblehead doll. The commissioner said Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert joked that unlike most bobbleheads whose heads nod up and down, Stern's only moves side to side as if shaking its head no.
"It's been a great opportunity," Stern said. "Believe it or not, even including my interaction with the media and the burns that come from being a lightning rod, it's been a great run, and I'm grateful to the owners for giving me the opportunity."
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