2010 NBA Finals, Game 4: Does the 2-3-2 Format Favor L.A. or Boston Most?

With Tuesday’s statement win, the Los Angeles Lakers not only reclaimed home court advantage in the NBA Finals, they turned the tables on the Boston Celtics.

No longer would the discussion focus on the possibility of Boston sweeping its three home games to close out the series. Instead, it would focus on the Lakers’ restored advantage—and on the unusual 2-3-2 format found only in the NBA’s championship series.

The 2-3-2—meaning the first two games being played at the arena of the team with the home court advantage, followed by three in the opposing team’s city, and then the final two back at the original venue—was instituted in 1985.

According to Commissioner David Stern, it was Boston’s Red Auerbach who suggested the format. In those days, the Celtics and Lakers were frequent opponents in the Finals, making coast-to-coast travel the norm on a seemingly annual basis.

It was an era when back-to-back games were still a regular occurrence in the championship series. With the arrival of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and the renewal of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, attention suddenly focused on the increasingly arduous schedule demanded of the teams, and of the media covering them, when a series extended to six or seven games.

The concern over the standard 2-2-1-1-1 format was obvious: A seven-game series demanded more travel and more logistical challenges, ultimately increasing expenses and imposing demands on all parties involved.

So, the league switched to the current arrangement, making the NBA the only major pro sport to use a different format for the championship series than the one that had been in effect for the rest of the playoffs.

The question is, who does the format favor this year—the Lakers, or the Celtics?

If history is any indication, it offers no undue advantage to one team over the other, aside from the expec...

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