Going into the conference finals, three of the four teams who had home court lost their series, so one may think that home court is not important. But this season is an outlier more than a rule.
In NBA history, there has been 144 Game sevens. The road team has won 30 of those, and that number includes the two game 7's in the 2021 semifinals. In other words, home teams are 114-30 in game 7's.
Home court is important because while both teams travel, the home team gets to spend the night before a game in their beds, in their homes, with their families. While this might not seem like much for a seasoned athlete coming off and 82 game season, in reality it helps them a lot. That extra rest from a better nights sleep in ones own bed can mean the different between losing and winning.
Now the monkey in the room is obvious. The better team has home court and that too is a factor in who wins and who loses a series. Home court really comes into play the longer a series goes.
Good teams intentionally aim for home court, because it is helpful. Getting to start a series in front of your own fans, and ending that same series, really gives the players the extra little bit they need to get the victory.
With the NBA Finals fast approaching, NBA lines site Betway went back and looked at all 71 NBA Finals and there has been 18 game sevens in NBA finals history, the home team has won 14 of those, and only 7 of those games have been within 5 points at the buzzer.
Source: NBA picks site Betway
Bet makers too love home court advantage, as they often favor teams with home court. Before their second round defeats the two teams the bet makers liked the most were the Brooklyn Nets, and the Utah Jazz. The Jazz had home court throughout the playoffs. Now with the Jazz, Nets and Sixers all gone, book makers have started favoring the Phoenix Suns. The Suns now have home court throughout the remainder of the playoffs.
The Jazz bring up another interesting point in regards to home court advantage, and that being geography. Utah has one of the highest elevations in the NBA, beaten only by Denver, and the elevation is often a factor in games. Utah is historically one of the best teams at home, but in the playoffs they have the worst road win percentage of teams with multiple finals appearances. The air in higher elevations causes the balls to be just a bit off, either lighter or heavier depending on home much air pressure is put into the ball, and this than affects the shooting of teams.
Home win percentage reflects both the importance of home court and the dominance of good teams. The home team wins game 1 of a series 75% of the time, and that number falls to just 44% in game 4. Why the drop off? Game 1 is at the home arena of the better team, and statistics show that the lesser team will likely be down 2-1 by game 4 and be about out of the series.
The Bubble last year also offered a unique look at home court advantage. The Denver Nuggets famously came back twice from 3-1 deficits, becoming the first team in NBA history to do so. But would that have happened had games been played in front of rabid fans at Viviant Smart Home Arena and Staples Center? Likely not. The Bubble also allowed a five seed in the Miami Heat to reach the NBA finals. The lack of fans and travel changed the dynamic of the playoffs in 2020 and gave us results that we otherwise would not have seen.