Chris Paul Suns Nuggets
Photo: Twitter/Bleacher Report

There are four NBA teams left standing in the playoffs and only one of them will be crowned as the 2021 champions. It will be either the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks or Atlanta Hawks.

These teams had different paths to the current stage of the postseason which is Conference Finals. The Suns had the best record in the entire league as they topped the Western Conference at the end of regular season.

Meanwhile the Clippers rested their key starters, most notably stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, during the final regular season games in what was considered by many as a move to intentionally drop lower in the standings and to avoid clashing with the Lakers early in playoffs. The plan worked as the Clippers lost to teams with a combined 39-104 record and entered the playoffs as number four seed.

While this move may be controversial, in hindsight it did work well for Ty Lue’s team. Despite going 0-2 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Clippers were able to beat the odds and reach the Western Conference finals for the first time in the history of the franchise.

As far as the Eastern Conference is concerned, neither of the top two seeds reached this stage of the postseason. Both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets were eliminated in the second round.

It will be seed number three (the Milwaukee Bucks) versus seed number five (the Atlanta Hawks) in the Eastern Conference finals. Both of these teams needed seven games in the second round to advance.

With the NBA Finals fast approaching, NBA lines site Betway went back and looked at all 71 NBA Finals and found an interesting correlation between home court advantage and winning. It turns out that 50 of those Finals were won by teams that had home court advantage which makes for 70%.

Judging by this statistic alone, the Suns, led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul, have the best chance of winning it all and claiming their first ever championship.

The home court advantage appears to apply to regular season games as well. Though to a lesser degree — home teams won 57% of their games. This number shrunk a little during this season and was at 54%. It could have been affected by the fact that arenas were either empty or with limited capacity due to lockdown restrictions.

Home teams are also more likely to win games in the NBA Finals. Their success rate is 61%. It is significantly higher for Game 1 and Game 7. Home teams won Game 1 in 53 out of 71 NBA Finals which is 75%.

The sample size for Game 7 of the NBA Finals is smaller — seven games were needed only 19 times — yet it once again shows that home teams have the advantage. They won 15 times which is 79%.

During a period between 1969 and 1978 three road teams won Game 7 in the NBA Finals. In 1969 the Boston Celtics defeated their arch rivals the Los Angeles Lakers. Five years later in 1974 it was again the Boston Celtics winning, except this time the loser was the Milwaukee Bucks. Finally, in 1978 the Washington Bullets beat the Seattle SuperSonics.

It took 38 years for another road team to seal the series in Game 7. It was LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers that managed to come back from being 3-1 down against the Golden State Warriors in 2016.

It should be noted that the scheduling of the NBA Finals played a part in how the series went too. For 34 years, starting in 1950, the NBA used the same format as it uses now — 2-2-1-1-1. This gives home court advantage to a team with a better regular season record for the first two games, it then hosts Game 5 and Game 7 if needed.

In 1985 the format was changed to 2-3-2 to limit the need for travelling. Accordingly, the team that had home court advantage in the first two games had to play three straight games on the road in front of hostile crowds. As a result the home teams won less championships under the new format — 66% while this number is at 71% over the entire league history.

The original NBA Finals format was re-introduced in 2014. Since then home teams won six out of seven NBA Finals series which again points to importance of home court advantage. If history repeats itself, one can already predict which of the four remaining teams will claim the title this year.

Knowing this useful information, you can visit NBA picks site Betway for the best picks of the strongest basketball league in the world.