For the first three rounds of the NBA playoffs, Game 5 returns to the home court of the higher seed. Game 6 is at the lower seed’s building, then the teams travel again for a Game 7, back to the higher seeds home court. The 2-2-1-1-1 format.
But not for the NBA finals. Then the rules change.
Now it is a 2-3-2 format, with the lower seeded team getting the three games in the middle. It’s perceived as a disadvantage for the lower seed — only twice since the NBA went to this format has the lower seed swept those three middle games.
So why do it? Money. Money and convenience.
This year’s finals (and last year’s) mean a cross-country flight for everyone. Not just the players, but for the massive number of media, television crews, NBA personnel and more that are at the games. Putting on and NBA finals is a production, and moving that production all the way across the country is expensive and a big pain.
And in a seven-game series, that’s a lot of cross-country flights in a few days right at the end. A lot of days lost to travel.
Remember this format was instituted in 1985 — when the two teams playing in this year’s finals were playing seemingly every year. And would be for a while. The travel was less of an issue getting from Chicago to Utah in the 1990s, but the format had been set. And as the league’s popularity grew, so did the contingent that follows the finals. That meant nothing changed.
And nothing is going to in the near future, unless some kind of Star Trek transporter can be developed. Not that I would be surprised if David Stern already had one of those, he’s just not making it public.