How important is home advantage in the NBA Finals?

We have just begun the NBA Finals with Milwaukee and Phoenix with the Suns taking game one of the best of seven with tonight with Game 2. The game will take place at Phoenix Suns Arena starting at 9 pm ET on ABC and ESPN radio.

Phoenix has the home-court advantage in the Finals and we always wonder how important starting off in front of the home crowd really is? Well in a recent article published by our friends at NBA lines site Betway did some outstanding research breaking down all we need to know about homecourt advantage so here we go.

Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton (22) attempts a shot ahead of Milwaukee Bucks’ Brook Lopez (11) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (Christian Petersen/Pool Photo via AP)

Of the 71 seasons in NBA history, the team with home advantage in the Finals has won the championship in 50 of them. That’s 70 percent.

Of course, the home team is usually the superior team, hence why they have the better regular-season record.

A closer look at the numbers, however, reveals the true benefit of playing in front of your own fans when the atmosphere is raucous, and the pressure is at its peak.

Over the past five years, home teams have won 57 percent of regular season NBA games.

That number has been dragged down somewhat by the 2020-21 season, in which many arenas operated far below capacity and home-court advantage was limited, with home teams winning 54 percent of games.

In the Finals, however, home teams have historically been more much more successful, winning games at a rate of 61 percent.

That number has been boosted significantly by the dominance of home teams in two games in particular: Game 1 and Game 7.

In 71 years of the NBA, the home team has won the first game of the Finals 53 times (75 percent). With fans fired up for the opening game of the series, it has been incredibly difficult for road teams to walk into their opponents’ arena and come out with a win.

The only tougher task is winning a Game 7 on the road.

The Finals have gone the full seven games on 19 occasions, with the home team triumphing 15 times (79 percent).

Three of those road wins came in a 10-year period back in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1969 Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers, the 1974 Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks, and the 1978 Washington Bullets beat the Seattle SuperSonics.

There was then a 38-year drought – during which six home teams won Game 7s – before the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit and beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 on the road in 2016.

That dominance in the first and final games of the series underlines just how important home-court advantage is. With the hosts winning Game 1 and Game 7 so consistently, the team without home advantage has just two other opportunities – Game 2 and Game 5 – to snatch a win on the road.

Fans cheer prior to game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)

Things were slightly different before the NBA changed the format of the Finals in 2014.

From 1950 until 1984, the Finals were structured in the same 2-2-1-1-1 format that is used today, where the team with the better record would host Games 1, 2, 5, and 7.

Between 1985 and 2013, however, a 2-3-2 format was used to limit cross-country travel.

The team with home-court advantage had to play three consecutive away games in this format, and had less success as a result, winning 66 percent of the Finals series compared to 71 percent before the change.

And since the NBA reverted to the 2-2-1-1-1 format in 2014, the home team has been almost completely dominant, going 6-1.

With the 2-2-1-1-1 format in place, and all NBA arenas now back to full or close-to-full capacity, home advantage is again going to be hugely important in this year’s Finals.

So let’s see if the Suns can keep pace with tradition or if the Bucks are the ones that change history, either way this should be an entertaining NBA Finals series.