Commissioner David Stern announced Wednesday that the NBA will change the travel format of the Finals from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1, effective for the 2014 Finals.
"The Board of Governors today voted unanimously to approve the Competition Committee's proposal to change the Finals home and away schedule to 2-2-1-1-1, with an extra day between Games 6 and 7," Stern said. "[The change was made] without any opposition."
This move aligns the Finals with the rest of the league's playoff series, which have been conducted in a 2-2-1-1-1 format.
“The Competition Committee felt strongly that a consistent format should be used for each round of our playoffs,” NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said in a statement.
The Finals were switched to a 2-3-2 format in 1985 to lessen travel demands on the two competing teams and to appeal to traveling media members. Stern told reporters that those concerns are no longer what they were -- given the advent of charter planes and a shifting media landscape that is no longer solely dominated by newspapers -- and that the change was made to restore home-court advantage to the team with the better record, by playing Game 5 in their building and by cutting down on their time spent consecutively on the road.
"There's been an abiding sense among of our teams [that] in a 2-2 series, it's not fair for the team with the better record to be away," Stern explained. "It's [also] difficult for the better team in terms of record to spend as many as eight days on the road away from home."
Last year, for example, the Heat possessed home-court advantage and split the first two games with the Spurs. The two teams then left for San Antonio following Game 2 on June 9 and did not return to Miami until after Game 5 on June 16. In Texas, the two teams split Game 3 and Game 4, giving the Spurs home-court advantage for Game 5, which is often seen as a crucial "swing" game. Even though San Antonio won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead, Miami was able to win the series in seven games.
Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the Game 5 home-court advantage issue is more of a perception than a reality.
"I think there's a sense that it skews the competition but it's not backed up by the data," Silver said. "Our data shows the likelihood of a team winning in a 2-3-2 format, the favored team, is the same as in the 2-2-1-1-1 format. But there certainly was a perception ... that it's unfair to the team with the better record that it was playing the pivotal Game 5 on the road."
NBA.com provided a breakdown of the series records in September, noting that the team with the better record has actually prevailed in the 2-3-2 format at a higher rate than under the 2-2-1-1-1 format, which was used prior to 1985.
Since 1985 the teams with Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home (if needed) have won 21 of the 29 Finals (.724) in the 2-3-2 format.
In the 38 NBA/BAA championships through 1984 (including some played with alternating home games or even 2-3-2 in the 1950s), the higher-seeded teams went 26-12 (.684).
Regardless, Stern said the switch was an "easy sell" among the league's Board of Governors.
Silver is set to take over as commissioner when Stern retires on Feb. 1.