How important is home-court advantage in the NBA Finals?

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How important is home-court advantage in the NBA Finals? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The 2022 NBA Finals will start in San Francisco.

The Golden State Warriors will host the Boston Celtics in Game 1 on Thursday to kick off this year’s Finals. The two franchises are accustomed to the championship stage, but this year’s Finals has a bit of an unconventional setup.

The Warriors were the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, while the Celtics were the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. It marks the second straight season that the Finals will not feature a No. 1 seed, though it’s just the fifth time overall since 2007.

If the Celtics are a higher seed than the Warriors, why aren’t the Finals beginning in Boston? Here’s a glimpse at how home court works for the NBA Finals, as well as how important it is in determining a champion:

How is home-court advantage determined in the NBA Finals?

Unlike the first three rounds of the playoffs, where the higher seed is granted home-court advantage, the team with the better regular season record gets it in the NBA Finals. The Warriors went 53-29 during the regular season and the Celtics went 51-31, so home court is granted to Golden State.

In most cases, the team with the higher seed also has the better record. Prior to this season, the most recent instance of a team with the higher seed starting the Finals on the road came in 2019. The 57-25 Warriors were the No. 1 seed in the West but had to play Game 1 of the Finals in Toronto against the 58-24 Raptors, who entered the playoffs as the East’s No. 2 seed.

Before that, the 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32, East’s No. 2 seed) were the last team to start the Finals on the road despite having a higher seed than its opponent, the San Antonio Spurs (58-24, West’s No. 3 seed).

While the method for determining home-court advantage differs in the Finals, the series layout is consistent through all four rounds of the playoffs. The team that hosts Game 1 also hosts Games 2, 5 and 7. The team that begins the series on the road hosts Games 3, 4 and 6.

How often does the team with home-court advantage win the NBA Finals?

It definitely helps to have home-court advantage in the NBA Finals.

Excluding the Orlando bubble, 53 of the 74 teams with home-court advantage in the NBA Finals went on to win the championship.

How often does the home team win Game 1 in the NBA Finals?

Home-court advantage plays an even bigger role at the start of the Finals.

Fifty-seven of the 74 teams that began the series at home won Game 1, good for a 77% win rate. 

How often does the home team win Game 7 in the NBA Finals?

Home court has a similar effect on Game 7s in the Finals as it does Game 1s.

Of the 19 Game 7s in Finals history, the home team came out on top 15 times (78.9%). The Celtics (1969 and 1974), Washington Bullets (1978) and Cavaliers (2016) are the only teams to ever win a Finals Game 7 on the road.