In basketball, home-court advantage is one of these key elements, but this year’s NBA Playoffs poses a rare occurrence where teams are competing inside a bubble that removes the advantages of playing at home such as fans, familiar environments and officiating tendencies.
And while this scenario puts every team on an even playing “field,” the loss of home-court advantage will be greater for some teams, which could ultimately impact the outcomes of games and series.
Odds suggest the league average for home-court advantage is around 2 points, but there are two teams that hold greater values simply because of topography.
The Nuggets and Jazz play at high altitudes, which affords them an added advantage against opponents not accustomed to conditioning in thinner air. Over the last three (full) regular seasons, Denver and Utah have combined to go 173-73 on their home floors.
Playoff teams that lose the most without home-court advantage
Playoff teams that lose the least without home-court advantage
(Home-court advantage values are indicated below for each First Round matchup with two comparing sets of odds: Current odds inside the bubble and projected odds if the series were played at the home team venue.)
It may be surprising to see the Lakers and Bucks, two of the Finals favorites this year, with the least adjustment to their odds from bubble to home. But traditionally, small-market teams like Milwaukee and Oklahoma City don’t carry as much home-court advantage weight as teams in larger cities.
In the Lakers’ case, the contingency that fills STAPLES Arena isn’t one that opponents fear. Lakers home games are a spectacle, a show, a can’t-miss experience, but they don’t create an environment that enhances every element of home-court advantage (you’ll notice that the Clippers have a higher home-court value than their L.A. counterpart due to the fan base).