The NBA Finals are going old school again.
After 28 years of a 2-3-2 Finals format — where the team with the worse record hosted the three games in the middle of the series — the NBA is returning to the 2-2-1-1-1 format used prior to that, as well as the format used in every other playoff round. David Stern confirmed the change at a press conference Wednesday following the NBA Board of Governors meeting where the owners approved the switch.
This was the expected outcome after the league’s Competition Committee unanimously recommended it. Stern said it was unfair for the team with the better record to have to play three games in a row on the road, including a potentially crucial Game 5.
“Easy sell,” Stern said of the change.
It was Stern who ushered in that change back in 1985. Back then the NBA’s popularity was skyrocketing thanks in large part to the Magic/Bird rivalry and suddenly newspapers from across the country sent someone to cover the Finals. The bean counters at those papers complained about the costs of the cross-country flights, plus at the time even the teams flew commercial. The change made some sense then.
Times change. Now the players fly charter and how the media covers the Finals is different (publications can hire freelancers already in a location, far fewer papers pay for their guy to fly with the series). However, the league said there will be an extra day off between Games 6 and 7 — those normally happen on a Tuesday and Thursday — to allow for travel. (The league also could tweak the start date to put the games on different days, but the Finals usually run on a Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday format).
Bottom line is the Finals are back to 2-2-1-1-1. It makes you wonder if last year’s series between San Antonio and Miami, or even the year before with Oklahoma City and Miami, might have been different with this format.