The Daily Update 4.10.11
The 16 playoff teams have been decided. Now it’s just a matter of seeds and playoff match-ups. With no team having more than 3 games left to play, the playoffs are just around the corner. There are some tight races to see who faces who down the line in the playoffs, but no team that doesn’t currently have home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs can earn it from this point on. The 4th seed in both conference are up 11 combined games over the 5th seed. That’s a big gap.
So the question becomes, how important is home court advantage to the teams who can still move up or down a seed. The first seed in each conference is already decided, but there is no guarantee that either of those teams makes the conference final, so home court advantage could still mean something to the highest remaining seed. However, only a few teams seemed determined to ensure they have more home games in the playoffs.
How important is it really? Since 2000, teams with home court advantage have won more than 3 out of 4 playoff series. But is that a product of that team playing more home games or just being better? Here’s the round by round break down of series records for teams with home court:
1st Round – 1 v 8: 21-1 , 2 v 7: 21-1 , 3 v 6: 17-5 , 4 v 5: 12-10, Overall: 71-17 (.807)
Conf. Semis – 1 v 4: 10-2, 2 v 3: 9-6, 1 v 5: 9-0, 2 v 6: 6-0, 3 v 7: 1-0, 4 v 8: 1-0, Overall: 36-8 (.818)
Conf. Finals – 1 v 2: 3-7, 1 v 3: 6-3, 2 v 4: 1-1, 3 v 4: 1-0, Overall: 11-11 (.500)
In seed differential:
+/- 1: 25-23 (.521)
+/- 2: 7-4 (.636)
+/- 3: 27-7 (.794)
+/- 4: 17-0 (1.000)
+/- 5: 21-1 (.955)
+/- 6: No series
+/- 7: 21-1 (.955)
So as you can see, the bigger the difference in the teams seeding, the easier it is to win. However, when the seeds are very close (a difference of 1), home court advantage doesn’t seem to matter much at all. Teams with the home court advantage (meaning better regular season record, regardless of seed) in those match-ups have won just twice more in 48 tries, going 25-23. Seeing as just 2 series in this year playoffs (say if Atlanta beat Orlando and Denver beat Oklahoma City) would even it up, that’s not a very big amount at all. So in terms of 1 spot in the playoffs, it seems pretty safe to say that home-court isn’t the biggest deciding factor.
Even more surprising is how it doesn’t seem to matter at all in the Conference Finals. In the 10 times that the two highest seeds have met since 2000, the team with home-court advantage has gone 3-7. A winning percentage of under .500 is shocking, but it also means that should San Antonio or Chicago make their respective Conference Finals, they’re home court advantage isn’t as much help as they might think it is. Even when taking into account all conference championship series the last 11 years, the overall record for home court teams is just 11-11. So once the season comes down to the best 2 teams in a conference, the team with the better regular season record doesn’t have an advantage at all.
However, in the Finals, it’s a bit different. Teams like the Lakers, Heat, and Celtics may want to worry about their position in comparison to Western Conference teams they meet in the Finals. The home court teams have won 8 of the last 11 NBA Championships. It’s a little harder to compare seeds because of the separate conference, but home-court is decided by best overall record anyway. Here’s the Finals breakdown.
Finals – 1 v 1: 2-0, 1 v 2: 2-0, 1 v 3: 2-0, 2 v 2: 0-1, 1 v 4: 1-0, 2 v 3: 1-1, 2 v 4: 0-1 Overall: 8-3 (.727)
So for teams truly worried about home court advantage, it’s possible they should relax a little. In the playoffs, it seems, the better prepared team usually wins, rather than the one who desperately fought for and achieved home-court advantage. The 5th seeds to present a much bigger challenge than the 6th, so winning the 3rd spot instead of the 4th would be a good idea, but that really has nothing to do with home-court, but with playing a tougher team.
Basically, the ability of home-court advantage to propel a team to a series win seems a bit of a myth. It may be true for a team here or there under the right circumstances, but overall it’s not usually going to get you much more than anything. Seeding seems to only matter because of the quality of opponents. Top seeds are far more likely to beat a 4 or 5 than a 2nd seed it to beat a 3, even if they both have home court. So to all the fans worrying about their teams battling for 1 extra home game out of fear of losing a series to a team down the line, just take a chill pill. It’s not as big a deal as you might think.
Scores from yesterday:
Washington 115, Atlanta 83
San Antonio 111, Utah 102
Milwaukee 108, Cleveland 101
Houston 99, Los Angeles Clippers 78
Denver 130, Minnesota 106
Scores from Friday:
Indiana 114, Atlanta 102 – This game didn’t matter for either team. The Hawks have the East’s 5th seed locked up and the Pacers can’t move out of the 8th seed.
Philadelphia 98, Toronto 93 – The Sixers keep pace with New York and stay alive for East’s 6th seed. The Raptors lose their 3rd straight.
New York 116, New Jersey 93 – The Knicks have now won 6 in a row. They still hold the 6th seed in the East.
Detroit 110, Milwaukee 100 – Both teams are playing for the lottery.
Miami 112, Charlotte 103 – Heat keep pace with Boston for East’s 2nd seed. Bobcats lose their 5th in a row.
Boston 104, Washington 88 – Boston still in 2nd in the East.
Chicago 93, Cleveland 82 – The Bulls clinch home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs
New Orleans 103, Phoenix 92 – Hornets remain 7th in West.
Oklahoma City 104, Denver 89 – Thunder punish their punish the possible 1st-round playoff match-up and division rival Nuggets.
Memphis 101, Sacramento 96 – The Grizzlies clinch the West’s final playoff spot.
Dallas 107, Los Angeles Clippers 96 – Dallas stays ahead of Oklahoma City for the West’s 3rd spot. They end a 4 game losing streak.
Portland 93 Los Angeles Lakers 86 – The Lakers lose their 4th straight. Blazers stay locked in on the West’s 6th seed.
Games of the Day:
Boston @ Miami – Battle for the Easts’ second seed. I just showed that home-court may not matter, but this is still a very big game. The Heat have yet to beat the Celtics, and a 4th straight win for Boston could hurt Miami’s confidence going into a potential playoff match-up. A win would show that they CAN (maybe not will) beat Boston in the East’s semi-finals. Prediction: Miami by 11.
Oklahoma City @ Los Angeles Lakers – Another big game out West that could cause movement in the West standings. The Thunder are hot and the Lakers could use a win after losing 4 straight. Dallas is just a game back of Los Angeles and a game up on Oklahoma City. Prediction: Lakers by 8.