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The Fairness Of 2-3-2

I try to steer clear of pure sports blogging here, but in the wake of yesterday's amazing LeBron–Paul Pierce showdown I can't resist. First, I hope we can all agree that it's imperative the Hornets pull out a win over San Antonio in Game 7 tonight, in order to save us all from the sheer horror of a set of conference finals consisting of (ugh) the Celtics, Pistons, Lakers, and Spurs.

More importantly, I think the way the playoffs have unfolded thus far provides a compelling argument for returning to the 2-3-2 format (where the higher-seeded team hosts Games 1, 2, 6, and 7), as opposed to the 2-2-1-1-1 format the NBA uses now for the first three playoff rounds. When home-court advantage is as determinitive as it's been so far, with home teams going a combined 22-2 in the second round, it's incumbent upon the league to do whatever it can (within reason, of course) to give lower-seeded teams a leg up. And, while I can't find data comparing the track records of the two formats, I think it's fair to say most people agree that the 2-3-2 evens things out by giving the lower-seeded team a better chance to win the series by getting on a roll at home.

In the NBA Finals, for example, which use the 2-3-2 format, twice in the last four years (the Pistons in 2004 and the Heat in 2006) the lower-seeded team won the series by sweeping the three home games and stealing one on the road. Higher-seeded teams have a big enough advantage by getting to host one more home game, including Game 7 (where home teams win more than 80 percent of the time). And if, like the Celtics in both their series this year, a higher-seeded team can't manage to win a single road game, they should at least have to play two elimination games at home, rather than just one. There's also the travel argument--if the Western Conference finals end up being between the Hornets and Lakers, five flights in two weeks between Los Angeles and New Orleans is a lot. But the home–road splits in the playoffs so far provide a good enough reason on their own for switching to 2-3-2.

--Josh Patashnik